By Ann Chen
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve always had dreams about what it’d be like to be in full-time ministry. My senior year of college, I had a conversation with God wrestling with Him because He was leading me away from full-time vocational ministry into the marketplace. I remember when I asked Him why, I remember Him distinctly telling me that if I were to go into full-time ministry at that point, it’d kill my faith because it’d be too comfortable.
I didn’t really understand the fullness of what that meant at the time.
Eleven years later, God did finally allow me to step into full-time vocational ministry. And in so many ways, it’s been amazing and what I dreamed about. I get to be on a team with incredible coworkers who are dreaming about the Church, talking about deep theological and pastoral issues, strategizing, praying, and seeking the Kingdom each and every week. The conversation and the fellowship invigorate me and the role assigned to me challenges me and allows me to utilize my giftings well. It’s a joy to be able to invest into people and see people grow.
It was only upon some more intentional reflection this past week that I realized that while this season has been an incredible season of ministry, my relationship with God hasn’t had the passion and depth that I would have hoped, and that I know that I once had. My times with God were still there, but they had become routine, and had lost the closeness and authenticity that had brought me life in the past.
It surprised me that it took me this long to realize it. In the past, this would have been more obvious to me. I realized that it’s in fact because I’m in vocational ministry that makes it so easy for the true state of my own spirituality to be masked. Because on a daily basis, I am doing work for God through my vocation, it is that much harder to see what’s the state of God’s work in my own heart and life.
I now understand some of the difficulty God was guarding me from about over a decade ago – struggles that I don’t think my immature, unformed, and untested heart would have been able to discern.
I’m grateful the Holy Spirit revealed it to me in this season. I don’t have the answers, but I know now what I need to do. Now, it is prioritizing finding the answers to the questions of how to revitalize and find my “first love” once again. Hopefully along the way, I will be able to discover how to navigate full-time vocational ministry in a way where I am able to keep the intimacy and fire with Jesus going, and keep my heart and spirit sharp and sensitive to God so that I don’t slip into this place yet again.
Ann Chen was recently serving in Malawi, working to see a discipleship making movement raise up amongst the Yao. She is an International Staff member with Epicentre Church and has a degree in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary.