Ministry in the Workplace
This year began a difficult internal struggle. At first I enjoyed the novelty of teaching at the High School. As time went on I slowly became frustrated with the system. But, I think there was more to it. I continually felt my heart saying that I belonged in ministry. I didn’t doubt that I had done the right thing in studying for a teaching degree. However, I became more certain that I didn’t want to be a Manual Arts teacher for the rest of my life.
I found the Sunday morning services very difficult to attend. I found them boring, irrelevant and often lacking any life as I would understand it. I had to ask myself was it simply because I was no longer the centre of the service? Or perhaps what I was experiencing was the reason why many people drop out of church?
I think that I was searching for a sense of vocation. Where I was able to see a synthesis in my life between work, rest, family, church and play. In my life there was a dichotomy between work and everything else. Work was what I went to and couldn’t wait to be away from. Weekends offered the chance to do things I enjoyed away from something I found tedious.
My entire Christian life had been spent in Christian ministry. For the past 10 years I never had a day where I felt misplaced. Although I hadn’t thought it through I had a sense of vocation. As a Pastor I felt integrated. My personal spiritual life was interwoven with my calling as a church leader.
Eugene Peterson describes in his introduction to “Under the Unpredictable Plant”, the abyss that developed between his private spiritual life and his pastoral life. As I moved away from full time ministry I discovered a gaping hole in my spiritual life. Once the role of Pastor was taken from me I discovered there was a “bad land” of neglected sin and nothingness.
Peterson says that this abyss was not before him but within him. This was also true of myself. No one ever questioned me about my calling. People are mainly concerned about whether you are listening to them, pastoral competency is not usually measure by one’s holiness but by
“Perhaps life is not a race whose only goal is being foremost. Perhaps the truth lies in what most of the world outside the modern west has always believed, namely that there are practices of life good in themselves that are inherently fulfilling. Perhaps work that is intrinsically rewarding is better for human beings than work that is only extrinsically rewarded. Perhaps enduring commitment to those we love and civic friendship toward our fellow citizens are preferable to restless competition and anxious self-defense. Perhaps common worship, in which we express out gratitude and wonder in the face of mystery of being itself, is the most important thing of all. If so we will have to change our lives and begin to remember what we have been happier to forget.”
When I read this quote from Tim Costello’s book, “Tips from a travelling soul searcher”, my heart responded with a fervent, “Yes. This is what I want.” What I desired was not to be the biggest and the best but to be able to strive within myself to discover that contentment. Without a synthesis of work, worship, rest and play I would always fall short of this mark.
The difficulty I faced was how do I do this when I really felt that I should be doing something else? Sometimes when sharing this with other people they would quote scriptures that tells us to be content in all circumstances, or they would give the sound advice that we can serve God wherever we are. Both statements are totally correct but I think these responses are similar to Job’s friends’ evaluation of his plight. Their conclusions didn’t quite hit their target. They may be true sometimes but they don’t deal with the whole problem.
There were the obvious things that I needed to work on. My attitude stunk. I was talking myself in believing from the very beginning of each day that I hated my work. I told myself that I was dealt with unfairly by administration and that I wasn’t well supported when dealing with difficult students or fellow staff members.
 Peterson, E., 1992, Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eerdmans, Chicago.
 Costello, T. Tips from a travelling soul searcher, P. 78