Since this is a new blog, some of you might not really know who I am or what I'm about. Maybe you're one of my multitudes (/sarcasm) of Twitter followers or maybe just simply a passerby. Either way, the purpose of this blog post is two fold. First, it is to share a little about myself and my calling. Second, it is to share some struggles I've had with my calling
I am serving in the Tennessee Army National Guard, and I am currently deployed to Jordan. I graduated from Lee University in Cleveland, TN with a BS in Pastoral Ministry. I am currently working toward my Master's degree, and when I graduate my goal is to become an Army chaplain. I have been married to my wife Emily for almost three years. We have a one and a half year old boy named William, and another boy named Josiah due sometime this month.
Before I left for deployment, my mom gave me an audiobook by Charles R. Swindoll called Saying It Well: Touching Others With Your Words. Listening to the book has been both encouraging and challenging. Although it is a book about speaking, it also has relevant passages about calling and preparation. Here are just a couple snippets from the chapter on preparing:
"Any worthwhile calling demands preparation."
"Those who rush into their calling without adequate preparation invariably make mistakes."
Obviously, preparing for one's calling is immensely important. You don't just decide one day you're going to be a doctor and begin practicing medicine the next day.
Then I came upon a challenging passage. Chuck relates some advice he got while in seminary:
"Chuck, you aren't in ministry yet. You are preparing for ministry. Don't let anything distract you from the disciplines of preparation. When you complete your training, you'll have a ministry ahead of you."
This has been an issue I have struggled with since the beginning of my college career. Now as I move onto Master's level work, this principle is even more pertinent, and confusing. Over the years I have heard many conflicting voices. Some would say, "Your education is your calling right now." Others would say, "If you're not involved in ministry right now while in school, you will not have a leg to stand on when your graduate." I've even heard it put this way by one of my respected professors, "You can not expect to be in school for 10 years and expect to be relevant to the everyday parishioner when you begin ministry."
So where does this leave me? This topic is especially personal to me since I was working on my resume today. Sure, I've spent the last four years "preparing" for ministry, yet my skimpy ministry resume has me feeling like all I've gained is a diploma. Not very impressive.
What do you think? Where is the line between preparation and ministry? Between legitimately focusing on preparation and using it as an excuse not to serve while in school?