In John 10:10 Jesus tells us he came to give us life and life to the full. I used to think I knew what that meant. As a youth pastor I thought I was living life to the full. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all my years in ministry, but it wasn’t until I decided to step away that I realized I wasn’t.
Sipping expensive coffee from coffee shops filled with others sipping their coffee while bent over my laptop typing out the latest article, lesson, retreat plans, and board reports all while surfing my social media outlets to “network” with others in ministry while the world was passing by was not living life to the full. Racing off to the next “meeting” or conference to talk about youth ministry only to schedule another meeting to talk about it some more was not living life to the full.
In my early years of youth ministry it was fun and rewarding, but towards the end it become more stressful and demanding. I felt like I needed to keep up, but with what or who I had no idea. It was no longer enjoyable and I was no longer excited about it.
So after months of searching my heart, fighting with myself and at times ignoring God’s leading I decided to resign and eventually quit youth ministry altogether. It’s been a year since I quit and it hasn’t been easy. I had no idea how much I wrapped my identity into what I was doing rather then who I am. The stress and unhappiness after resigning got worse before it got better. At one point it was so bad I shut down, feeling like I had no purpose. I even shut God out at times because I didn’t want to believe that after 15+ years He was taking me in a totally new direction. The thing is, deep down I knew it and I knew He was right. When you’ve done something well for a long time and you suddenly discover you won’t be doing it anymore it’s a stressful and scary thing. Uncertainty of your future can either paralyze you or cause you to move forward in faith and trust in God.
After months of wrestling with God, for which no one wins, I surrendered. Since then I have been focusing on who I am in Christ and not what I did or do now. I no longer chase after fitting into the cookie cutter mold of youth ministry that I see so many running after today. Sitting around coffee shops talking about youth ministry instead of actually doing it is no longer my thing. I know, crazy right. I mean, for those who know me that just sounds odd. And the busyness of meetings and administrative work that seems to dominate many ministries today over the actual work of ministry is no longer a burden.
Now, if you’re in ministry and reading this please know I’m not attacking the work you do. I can’t speak for you and not all ministry is how I shared it above. But what I shared was personally convicting. I came to the realization that it was my choices that brought me to burnout stage. I could have changed the way I was doing things and not fallen into the trap of busyness. However, everyone else was, I was just trying to keep up. So I thought.
Ministry has taken on a whole new life for me. Now it’s a part of who I am, it’s not what I do. I’m not sitting around beefing up my resume or trying to write books in hopes of getting another full time ministry position. Ministry is something ALL believers are to do in our everyday life. It doesn’t matter what your job/ career is, you don’t have to be in full time ministry to share the gospel.
Recently I sat around a picnic table with some friends enjoying a simple hot dog and hamburger dinner at their campsite. It was quiet, peaceful and the weather was beautiful. While eating, a conversation broke out about religion. I was able to join in and share the gospel, but here’s the thing. It was natural and flowed. I didn’t feel like or was treated like the youth pastor I was before. This is how it was for Jesus. Enjoying the company of others in everyday life while sharing the Good News. It wasn’t work. It was life on life and living it full at that moment.
Now days I’m finding I have more opportunities to share the gospel with others working a regular job then I did in full time ministry. I’m back to enjoying the outdoors, photography and art that I set aside during the busyness of ministry. Old talents that laid dormant for years are coming back as well as dreams and ideas. Helping people, serving and giving is no longer a planned project or an event on my calendar. I no longer need to seek board approval or search my budget. I now serve because I’m compelled, not because it’s my job.
While I can say serving in full time ministry was rewarding and fulfilling. Serving and living life outside of full time ministry has become even more fulfilling.
Enjoy life to the full as God intends. Live each day as if it’s your last making the most of each moment. Surround yourself with friends that truly love and care about you. Spend time with family as much as possible. And remember, life is one long hiking trip. If you’re focused only on your destination and achieving the end goal, you’ll miss so much in between that God wants to you see and experience.
Live every moment. Laugh everyday and Love beyond words. Live life to full through Christ!