It was 1974 when I started as a full-time pastor of a church. I did that for 30 years, going on a leave of absence ten years ago the end of this month. That was to move into my 2nd career full time. In the previous ten years I had also worked part-time as an addictions counselor so it was time to do that full-time. As I once described it to a group I was training with, at that point I finally paid attention to God's call to do ministry outside the institution of the church. Secular ministry I called it (and still do, even though I do not like the term.) For the past 10 years I have worked full-time in the addictions field working first with middle school youth, then young adults and finally with adults in residential and outpatient settings.
What a ride it has been. In the midst of all that I had some amazing adventures, met and worked with many amazing people. I have loved my work and never felt that I was in the wrong vocation or calling. The call changed, but it was always ministry in the very best, broadest and most profound sense of that much abused word. I like being on the front-lines; that quote over there in the sidebar has never wavered: I want to live and work within a few yards of the gates of hell. One of these days I will write on here about what that has meant to me. But for today, I am semi-leaving part of that behind to begin my third career.
Tomorrow I will talk about that. For today, it feels as if I have taken another important step, led by God's grace and calling. Ministry is not a church-based, church-owned, or even church-defined activity. It is where God calls you. The leading of these past 40 years has been amazing, humbling, always exciting, sometimes frustrating since God doesn't usually do what I want God to do in spite of my prayers and petitions to the contrary. The key is in the 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying ONLY [emph. added] for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out.I have tried to do that to the best of my ability and I have always found the empowerment needed.
I have no doubt about that empowerment and direction into the future.