I poked my head in the worship leader’s office on a Thursday and said, “Good news… Only 12 people are getting baptized this weekend!”
I cringed at the words even while they were escaping my mouth. The problem was that the worship service we had planned that week was bursting with songs, creativity, prayers and an ambitious sermon. Squeezing it all in before the congregation started eying the exits would be no easy task. So fewer baptisms meant that people might actually stay through the closing song. But was I really happy because less people would be experiencing the wonderful sacrament of baptism, just because it made my job easier?
Welcome to the ironic world of a Professional Christian. For seven years, I’ve paid my mortgage through the income I receive working at a church. My life revolves around doing Kingdom work. I’m thinking church six days-a-week. My friends attend church. I love them deeply and I love the calling of serving the gathering of believers in worship. But it gets messy. Consider these line-blurring questions:
Do I let my family down because I’m so busy working for Christ?
Do I love people because I get paid for it, or because they can help my ministry?
Do I find my identity in work, rather than in being a rescued child of God?
Do people wonder if I care for them just because it’s my job?
Am I so busy in meetings that I don’t spend much time in prayer and listening for God’s voice?
Do I make decisions based on what’s good for my career, rather than what serves the Kingdom?
Do people assume I have it all together? (I don’t.)
When people say nice things about our ministry, do I lose humility?
Do I start to believe that I earn God’s love through working for Him?
Is my job so all-consuming that it’s hard to make time to build relationships with those outside church?
At times, I’ve had to honestly answer, “Yes” to each of these hard questions.
I believe passionately in the eternal, transformative power of worship. I know that our creative God crafted us in his image to create and to experience Him deeply through soul-stirring art. Through my vocation, I’m blessed and freed to devote time to the transcendent intersection of creativity, people and God. But if I am not vigilant, guarding my heart against the shadow motivations that can creep in to my work, I can start to lose the beautiful, redemptive story that God is writing. My thread in his divine design can be twisted by the darker plot of professional Christianity.
Do you have friends who are Professional Christians? Do you work in vocational ministry? How can we live and love well in the tension, being committed and passionate about full-time ministry, without falling prey to the perils of the Professional Christian life?