My wife and I were meeting up with one of our college students the other day. We’re just getting to know all of them, and it has been next-to impossible to get them all together at once. So, we’ve been meeting them individually. Much of what this student shared from her life reflects the experience of many Asian American college students — she had roommate problems her first year, she’s looking for an internship, her family life is, unfortunately, quite broken.

But one thing she shared stood out to me. In the midst of sharing about her family, she mentioned that her older brother was thinking of going to seminary. Oh really? we asked. Yes, she replied. He hasn’t had much luck finding a job with his current degree (I think it was environmental science), so he thought he might have better luck with seminary.

Ugh.

It’s so easy to misinterpret or misunderstand the call to vocational church ministry. At one extreme, we over-spiritualize “the call.” Some people love the seat of power, and they think becoming a pastor will give them some kind of authority over people. Jesus had a couple of choice words for these folks. My wife and I used to work with a pastoral intern who loved sitting right next to the senior pastor at church functions, and who hid out in his office area on the church-wide cleanup day. I don’t like the fact that I just spent the last hour and a half cleaning the bathrooms and mopping the hallways here at church but, hey, it’s part of the deal in this case. Not because I’m particularly humble or holy — just realistic. We’re a very small church, and if I don’t do it, no one will. And, in my OCDness, I cannot stand for it.

I am a huge believer in the priesthood of all believers. Although being a church pastor is a unique position, I don’t believe it is inherently more holy or spiritual than working in an office or waiting on tables (in fact, it has a lot more in common with these vocations than some might think). We are all called to ministry — but our specific vocation will vary from person to person.

At the other extreme, some people look down on pastors — as if we ended up where we are today because nothing else worked out. Just today, I was having lunch with a church family when one of them asked me if I had been to college. I was genuinely taken aback. I am a graduate of the top-ranked undergraduate business school for over ten years running (not to mention the same university as John Legend).

Youth ministry is more than glorified babysitting; I work hard to provide spiritual care, formation and direction for our students. I invest in their lives. I keep up with the latest professional journals. I am constantly trying to innovate, edit, repent and be creative, honest, and genuine in my ministry. I have a Masters degree from a rigorous theological seminary program; as such, I try to engage students and their families from a theological, and developmental, perspective.

This is probably a little bit presumptuous on my part, but being in ministry is a little bit like being an artist. How many people have walked up to a Jackson Pollack and said, “My four-year old kid could do that.” Heck, even Olivia tried it out home once. In a similar way, I cannot tell you how many people have come up to me and basically said, “I could do that.” My brother-in-law constantly tinkers with the idea of going to seminary (although he is already a medical doctor) because he is a good public speaker and likes the idea of getting up there to preach. In both art and ministry, it is a lot harder than it looks. In fact, the best preachers I have known make it look easy because of the preparation they have put into it. Not to mention the fact that preaching is actually a very small part of what “ministry” actually is.

If this has all put you into a bad mood, I apologize. Watch this. You’ll feel better.

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