There were a lot of factors that influenced me to attend seminary, but I ultimately decided to go because I felt that was where God was telling me to go. However God didn’t call me here just so I could learn a bunch of things and inflate my ego. He called me here to form me for ministry.
However discerning specifically where He is calling me has been quite difficult, particularly with my health issues of the last 2 years.
When I moved out here I didn’t really have a clear sense of what I wanted to do ministry wise, and 4 years later I’m still essentially in the same place. I’m an academically gifted and inclined person; I don’t struggle to learn new things and I love to do so. So in keeping with this trait I was initially inclined towards academic ministry. However I don’t really want to do the work of a scholar which involves “increasing knowledge” because then learning just seems like an end in itself to me. I like learning things because I believe the deeper and broader your knowledge the better you can guide people spiritually, which inclines me towards pastoral ministry. However pastoral ministry involves working closely with people which is an area that I personally do not have a lot of experience and confidence in.
Gifting and inclinations however are only part of the equation when it comes to discerning ministry calling; you also need to discover what you are passionate about. Really what this means is to discover what it is that excites you, keeps you up at night, makes you jump out of bed in the morning, and what you will suffer and endure trials and hardships in the pursuit of. This doesn’t have to be in traditional areas of ministry such as missions, pastoring, teaching, etc, it could also be in the marketplace. So if you are passionate about business for example, running one in a Christlike manner (e.g. sustainable workloads so you don’t burn your employees out, investing in and developing people, etc) is just as much a ministry as preaching from the pulpit on Sunday morning, and just as needed, if you have the passion for it. Or if you’re just an employee at a company doing your job with integrity and treating people fairly and respectfully is also ministry.
At this point I don’t really have an answer to the second part of this equation. On the one hand the reason I have an IT undergrad degree is because I actually do like computers and all the related technologies; I haven’t lost interest in the IT field. On the other hand though the reason I am pursuing a theology degree is because my faith is actually so important to me that I consider it worth it to invest thousands of dollars in learning to understand it better and to use that better understanding for the spiritual benefit of others. I believe that I have the skills to do either one (though at this point I would need retraining to do IT work again) and could be happy doing either one (mainly because they’re not mutually exclusive options).
I suppose though if you feel burned out like I do (yes my condition has improved from depressed to burned out) it’s hard to be passionate about anything. Many of the people I’ve talked to who did enter full time ministry did so because they couldn’t see themselves being happy doing anything else, and this point I can’t say that in regards to anything.
So I’ve decided to prioritize recovering from my burnout and then seeing where I’m at once I’m back to normal and being honest and okay with where I’m at then. I did come to seminary after all to be formed for ministry, and that happens both inside and outside the classroom. I believe that the struggles of the past 2 years are certainly playing a role in that formation, but what role and the effects of it remain to be seen.
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