Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches. (1Cor. 7:17, NLT)
I sat across from my pastor, awaiting guidance on a question that had significant ramifications for my future. After 14 years as an Air Force Officer, I felt I was being called to go into full time ministry. I even went so far as to inquire about becoming an Air Force Chaplain.
But the odds were greatly against me. The Air Force had all the Chaplains they needed. What they didn’t have was all the pilots they needed. Why would they take me from a field where they had shortages into a field where they had plenty?
Wondering if this was a sign that I should leave the Air Force, I sought the counsel of a trusted pastor. “Should I stay or should I go?”
After much counsel and even more prayer, his answer came that day. “I think you should stay…” I was devastated! Wasn’t he supposed to encourage me to attend seminary? Was there something about me that made him think I wouldn’t be a good fit for full-time ministry? As these questions flashed through my mind, I realized he was still talking.
“… and here’s why: You can be a Chaplain right where you are. Why don’t you try ministering to the people around you everyday?”
I felt like I was being handed a consolation prize: thanks for inquiring about full-time ministry, now go do this small task until you’re all grown up. Oh wait, he was still talking…
“I’m telling you Bill, you have a reach and an influence that I will never have. If I walked into your flying squadron with a title of Rev., what do you think the reaction would be?” I tried to figure out how to tell him that while there are many good Christians in the military, the response would be akin to flipping on a bright light in a room full of cockroaches. Of course, I was looking for different words. He rescued me from my struggle by helping me realize he already knew the answer to his own question. He was familiar with stepping into “foreign” environments.
“You’re around them everyday… you speak their language… they respect you, and you have the ability to speak into their lives right where they live. I’m not saying no to ministry for you, I’m actually endorsing you with a hearty YES… right where you are. You will have more impact than I ever could.”
As I left his office that day, I had a new set of eyes.
I saw the opportunity to have real impact in people’s lives. I saw meaning and purpose in my everyday existence. Turns out I was a Minister after all… I just didn’t know it.
Are you struggling with a decision to stay or to go? Are you assuming that the only impact you can have is with full-time ministry and a seminary degree? Never underestimate the power of your proximity, your ability to “speak their language,’ and your ability (by the grace of God) to minister right where you are!
Where might God be calling you to Minister today?