VOCATION by Keith Giles
A wise man once told me, "Calling trumps career, every time." When I first heard those words spoken, several years ago, I was deep in the throes of trying to decide the path I should take in my vocation. At the time I was working two part-time jobs, one as a pastor at a brand-new church-plant, and the other as a marketing director for an international non-profit ministry to youth, with a strong value for caring for the poor. (By the way, never let anyone tell you that working two part-time jobs is easy. It's really like working two full-time jobs and trying to squeeze your life in their somewhere between gulps of air).
As much as I knew these words of wisdom rang true, I wasn't quite sure what it actually meant in my particular case. Was my calling to be a pastor? If so, then my choice must be to go full-time at the church-plant. Was my calling to serve the poor? Then perhaps my choice was to go full-time into the non-profit realm, helping others to see God's heart for the poor.
As time progressed, I realized that I was being called to start a new church here in our area. My biggest shock came when I realized it was a house church. No one, other than my wife and a few friends, understood it. It made no sense to anyone that we would do such a thing.
Several years earlier, before I went part-time with these two organizations, I had been working for Ingram Micro as an associate program manager on the Apple Computers account. To be honest, I hated that job because it was very technical and involved weekly data analysis of spreadsheets on carrier performance. The whole time I was there, I daydreamed about leaving the world of Apple Computers to pursue God's calling on my life- To be a pastor.
Even though the day I got hired at Ingram Micro I felt strongly that God was saying to me that this job was His best for me, I continually strategized a way to leave and enter "full-time ministry." When the day eventually came that I could leave Ingram Micro and go part-time with our church-plant, I leapt at the chance. Here, at last, was my chance to discover my calling to be a pastor.
The church-plant didn't have the funds to bring me on full-time, so I worked part-time as a Children's Pastor and Compassion Ministries Director, while serving 3 days a week at the non-profit youth ministry.
At first, I loved it! Between the two jobs I was paid to do all the things I loved. Plus it beat the stuffing out of sitting in front of a computer crunching numbers on a spreadsheet.
Fast-forward about four years and I had already stepped out with my family to launch "The Mission", our house church ministry in Orange, California. My jobs at the church-plant, and at the non-profit are now both in the past.
The most remarkable thing to me is how God has changed me during this journey. I started off yearning to enter "full-time ministry", which to me meant entering a pastoral vocation as part of a paid staff of ministers. Today, I am more of a "full-time minister" than ever before as I pastor the people in our house church and reach out to the various families on our street here.
My job is actually still my greatest challenge. I read about how Paul the Apostle worked with his hands, making tents to pay his way, so that he would not become a burden to the Church and to allow for the offering collected to go towards the poor rather than to himself, the pastor and church-planter.
For a year now, (I left the non-profit ministry last July), I have struggled to find steady, ongoing employment here in Orange County. Yet, still, God has proven to be faithful as He continually, (and creatively I might add), provides for our daily needs.
Last Wednesday, we hosted a July 4th "Breakfast on the Lawn" for our community. We invited every family on our cul-de-sac to join us for scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes on our front lawn. We had been wanting to take this simple step towards living an incarnational life here in this neighborhood for over a year. Last Wednesday we welcomed twenty of our actual neighbors to a feast of fellowship. Our next step is to lead a weekend "Kids Club" for the children in our community, and following that, we hope to invite individual families over for dinner soon, and possibly start an ALPHA group or Truth Project for those who are curious about who Jesus is.
Today, as I reflect on those words of wisdom about how "Calling trumps career", I think I understand them even more than I ever did before. My calling is to be an ambassador of Christ to the people who live on my street and to pastor the people who are part of our house church. My career is incidental. God has made that abundantly clear to me.
About seven years ago, before I ended up at Ingram Micro, I endured a long season of working temporary jobs. During that year and a half in the desert God revealed something powerful to me. It was that God cares more about who I am than He does about what I do for a living.
I think today, as I am once again officially "Unemployed" and back on the job trail, I understand all of this with more clarity than ever before.
Who am I? Who is it that God has called me to be? The only thing, ultimately, that is of concern to God is that I am faithful to His calling on my life. At some level I realize that God may never provide a "perfect job" for me that offers stimulation or comfort or position or prestige. I've resolved that, whether God gives me a job beyond my wildest dreams or not, I will continually serve Him by serving others in the place He has planted me.