Calling: Lost and Found

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”

– Wendell Berry

I found my calling, or it found me, early in life.  As a teenager, I felt God’s call to be a pastor.  Caring for, teaching, and guiding others towards Christ deeply resonated with me.  Now, over 30 years later, that calling is deeper but far different than when I began.  Vocational church ministry was my life.  I loved it, but also secretly hated it.  While the transformation of lives by Christ was exhilarating, it often seemed like the bureaucracy of the church was an impediment to this change.  Coupled with this was a growing frustration in my own inability to lead my congregation to a better place.  Finally, the dissonance caught up with me.  After years of plowing on, I hung up the phone and it was over.  I quit.  At the time I thought I had simply resigned as an associate pastor, but it turned out to be bigger than that.  The truth was I had left vocational church ministry and wasn’t going to return.

Disoriented, yet hopeful, I dabbled with my calling over the next few months.  Serving as an interim pastor of a wonderful congregation was comfortable, but strangely never felt right.  Investigating positions at new churches felt like dating someone with no real spark between you.  Ultimately, I remained “without call,” as pastors say.  A pastor “without call” is a stigma (and a misnomer).  Like a teacher without a class or a salesperson without a product, to be “without call” feels like a billboard announcing that something is wrong with you.  I grew increasingly panicked.  As the economy was collapsing around me, I felt my calling collapsing as well.

“How did I lose my way in all this?”  I wondered as I sat at our dining room table reviewing ministry openings.  Nothing felt right.  It was as if God closed the door of the ark and I was drowning in the flood.  I just couldn’t find my place any more.  Amy Sherman, in her book “Kingdom Calling,” speaks of flourishing in our callings; of finding our “sweet spots” vocationally.  Over the years in ministry, it seemed just the opposite had happened to me.  For reasons I still do not fully understand, I wilted in the pastorate.  With my severance pay running out, I was desperate and confused.  How could I live out my calling if I wasn’t a pastor in the traditional sense?

Our callings, it seems, change both others and us.  God called me out of church ministry, in part, to search and lay bare my heart.  To do so, He had to strip away the fig leaves of professional ministry that I had covered myself with for so many years.  Without “Rev.” in front of my name, I no longer had any place to hide my fears, unbelief, and questions.  If we are to “intentionally grow as people who see,” as Amy Sherman describes it, I think we first have to see the truth about ourselves, and groan for unconditional grace.

But Sherman’s emphasis is correct.  We must also strive to hear others’ groans in this broken world.  So, instead of trying to get back to the safety of the walls of the church, I began to listen outside the walls and look for a place where “business itself was a means of ministry.”  Changing my thinking in this way surprisingly opened up a whole new venue for my calling as a pastor.  Technology has always fascinated me.  While serving as a pastor I often supplemented my salary by helping people with their computers.  I enjoyed the challenges inherent in the work and found great satisfaction in serving people in this way.  But it always felt like a guilty pleasure – something I did when I should have been doing “real” ministry, such as sermon preparation.

But what if this was ministry – making broken things work again, learning how things function at a deeper level, and helping people with tangible, practical problems?  I loved doing these things.  Would it be possible for me to do them as a business that itself was a means of ministry – that this was my calling from God?  I am grateful to say that three years later the answer is a resounding “yes.”  Each morning I wake up with the opportunity to give my clients a “foretaste of the coming realities of Christ’s kingdom” through my business, MacPro Services.

I spend my days in homes and businesses, helping people with their technology and listening to their lives.  My connections expanded.  I have the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life; not just church members.  In particular, I have enjoyed a growing friendship with retirees.  These people are hidden gems in our culture.  I am enriched every day by my interactions with them.

But it is not just that my work gives me opportunities to minister to others; rather, my work as an IT professional is ministry.  It honors God and helps others.  It is integral to the missio Dei – to what God has called me to do.  As I perform my work with diligence and integrity, I find myself saying, “I was made for this!”  I still wake up some mornings surprised at the new path I am on.  Taking a hard turn into the unknown, I have found my place again.  Our callings are rarely a straight line.

As Sherman explains, “For most, the journey to where they are now, with what they are doing now, has required much effort, intentionality and perseverance.  The way has not always been linear.”  I think Sherman is being kind.  Sometimes the path God calls us to walk is inscrutable.  It often makes no sense.  But the gospel is always clear: out of despair comes joy (Psalm 30:5) and the losing is integral to the finding (Matthew 20:17-19).  Today I am more a pastor than I have ever been.  I am a pastor who lost – and found – his calling.

Ed Hague is the owner of MacPro Services, an IT service company, and an instructor at Christ Classical Academy in Tallahassee, Florida.

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  • Bill & Charlotte Loy

    Hi Ed, This was an excellent article and if I had read it before your email I would have thought well your life is great that yes “When God closes one door he opens another” as Charlotte recalled from Scripture and stated after reading your article. Of course then recalling from your email that you had been in a head on collision, now I’m sure the questions returned to your mind such as, “God, why did you let this happen” but I’m sure through God, doctors, family and friends, including some of your clients, all are helping you through another of life’s mud holes. We so much appreciate being a part when things started falling apart at Watkinsville but then a new ministry began in a church you started and we very much were blessed to be apart of it all. So now we will be praying for your recovery.

  • Peter Meents

    I’m glad to read your story. We’ve lost touch with each other and I had no idea what you were doing in Tallahassee.

    Years ago Doug Griffin pestered me about why I wasn’t going to seminary like so many others in my Christian circles were. What I told him was that I wanted to serve somewhere I could meet people pastors probably never would meet. I meant that, but the fact is, I never sensed any calling to be a pastor. Though I did go on WDA staff for a couple of years, I frankly felt like a failure there. I loved the people, but I felt like much of my time was wasted. In 1984 I went into sales and sold various things for years. Again, no real fit there. If I didn’t believe in it completely, I couldn’t sell it. Working for others didn’t give me enough control to make sure that I could keep my problems. Finally, at 43, I started Heritage and love it. The only problem is, most of the people I work with are already believers and I want to meet more people who are not yet believers. Still, I have no gift of evangelist, so I guess this is best.

    Say hey to Betsy for me!

    Grace and peace,
    Peter

    • Kevin asked “what must a pastor do roasenably well to be a good pastor?”A while back, I started to notice that some of what I thought was “truth”from the Word of God was actually “traditions of men” “hand-me-down religion,”that makes the Word of God of non effect. ( Mark 7:6-13 ) I started to notice that what I was taught about **today’s**“Pastors/Leaders,” wasn’t lining up with what was found in scripture. For starters When searching for what a “Pastor/Leader” does **Today** in the Bible,I had a very rude awakening. I found NO Pastors in Pulpits Preaching to People in Pews. When folks came together, every one has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. 1 Cor 14:26. Every one can and is expected to participate. Today we have pew potatoes.NO “disciple of Christ” “calling” another brethren Pastor, or “My” Pastor.NO “disciple of Christ” “calling” them self Pastor or Leader. ”ALL” disciples called themselves “Servants of Christ.” Hmmm?NO “disciple of Christ” having the “Title”or “Position” “Pastor/Leader.” Today that “Title” is written on Diploma’s on walls, business cards, office doors, Sunday morning bulletin, street signs, and more. And everyone knows who the “Pastor/Leader” is. Why? Jesus, humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation, . took on the form of a “Servant.” Could that “Title” be an “Idol?”NO “disciple of Christ” “Exercising Authority” over another believer. I was taught; You submit to me, NOW, your “God Ordained Authority,” And, one day, when you’re a Pastor, people will submit to you. . Power. Profit, and Prestige, is highly esteemed among men. Guilty. Oy Vey!NO Pastors, separating themselves from the body, as “Clergy-class.”NO Pastors counseling anyone.NO Pastors marrying anyone.NO Pastors burying anyone.NO Pastors visiting the sick.NO Pastors wearing special clothes.NO Pastors going from one congregation to another. What’s up with that? Elders, plural, matured within the group, when, if, appointed, they were known. Pastor, Paid, Professional, is hired, NOT known. And the list goes on You could probably think of a few yourself.IMO Not of much of what we see **Today,** with “Pastors/leaders,”has any reference in scripture.Are there any congregations “Led” by a “Pastor” in the Bible?Seems it’s mostly “hand-me-down religion.”Seems “The Traditions of Men” are “mighty” in power to distract and deceive.Jesus warned us about making “the word of God”of non effect through our traditions; Yes?Mark 7:13 KJV Making the word of God of “none effect” through your tradition Mark 7:13 ASV Making “void” the word of God by your tradition Mark 7:13 NIV Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition “We do not just seek what is, but rather what should be.”Of course, these thoughts, NOT new to me, got a lot of believers thrown in prison.Some paid with their life.History declares “Christiandumb” is often a bloody sport. Especially When you challenge the “Traditions and Doctrines of men” in power.Especially When those with “Titles” and “Position” see their “Power, Profit, and Prestige,being questioned and diminished by those who “want to be “Led” by the Spirit,by those who are challenged **to follow Jesus.**Be blessed in your search for Truth Jesus.

  • Erika Rowlette

    Ed, your writing spoke to me where I am now in my life. Good to know I am not the only one that is experiencing this “uneasy” transition time…to who knows where.

  • Pat Whitehouse

    Dear Ed,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I agree with you as well. You probably remember me as the mother of Dawn Whitehouse Davis. I am so glad you shared. So many people like yourself, feel guilty leaving the “ministry”. You will encourage them by your words.

    I share Christ with people who come to repair things around the house. It’s fun. The only problem, the majority of them are men. But at my age, I am more like a grandmother to them. Since my husband passed away, I think what would he do? I trained at Fuller and worked with three organizations, but now l share with more freedom. God has been good. Keep truckin’ for the Lord!

    Pat Whitehouse

  • Ed’s pilgrimage is not only a story of grace, it is an echo of the sort of path many people take as they yearn to flourish in a broken world. It also hints of ways that the church might need to rethink how it shapes “ministry” if it is to be faithful in connecting vocation and the gospel.

    I am extremely grateful you wrote this piece, Ed. Reading it as I begin my day was like a breath of cool air after too many weeks in a stuffy room. Thank you for pastoring me, my friend, in the fullest meaning of that term.

  • Candy Nabell

    Just going over old e-mail and realized I had missed this one. A Bible study leader once said “It is not only what you are doing that makes a difference for Christ but what you are being. Being Christ with skin to those you come in contact with is a great ministry. I am happy to know what God has done in your heart as you pursue your passion for HIM, and your business. Bob and I are praying that your back is healing and that you will be able to get back to normal with good physical therapy. Both of us have sure been blessed by your friendship and your technical skill. Love in Christ, Candy