Hello, I’m a professional Christian

Being a minister is great.

In essence it’s about trying to help other people find their way to God. This is exactly what my life was about before I was a minister – when I was a hospital porter/geology student/school science technician/college registrar, but now I get to do it full time. The hours are antisocial, sometimes it’s difficult switching off and you frequently get closer to lives and relationships in the church and community than is comfortable. But the struggles are massively outweighed by the privilege of seeing people coming to know God and sharing in their lives as they consequently find their feet in life and in death.

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However, there is one difficulty which I don’t think I’ve ever really expressed in my ten years of ministry to date. When you are a minister there is a generally unspoken niggling suspicion that you are only following Jesus because it’s your job. Like this strange talk of resurrection, God living in us and personal / social / global transformation in Jesus is the product of a theological education and a professional office. “You would say that because you have to say that.”

Occasionally I’ve suspected the same thing of myself. I guess it’s inevitable that a vocation which requires you to know God can raise the question in your own mind: ‘How much of this is me and how much is my role?’

God’s presence and call ARE affirmed in the activities of ministry. When you see Christians you have discipled thriving in God’s life and when you baptise the people they have preached to, your faith is affirmed. But the endless crash and burn stories from the lives of Christian celebs show us that sadly it is possible to lead a ‘successful’ church whilst spiritually running on empty.

Which is why stillness and quiet prayer before God is so precious. I’m not sure that I realised how precious it was when it was freely available to me as a single, underemployed twentysomething. I did spend hours at a time with God back then. But ministry is busy. Marriage needs attention in order to work. Family life is messy. Much of the last 10 years have been spent with bags under my eyes and quiet prayer has been grabbed on journeys and in stolen moments jump-started by tongues and drifting into zees.

But now, as the kids are getting older and I’m more in control of my church diary, space is opening up. Chunks of MY time with God are possible again and when I keep my eyes on him I know that the friendship of God is what matters.

In that precious time with the Father, I remember that I really do believe this stuff. I remember that nothing I’ve learned or seen or done in the last 10 years has changed my conviction that God not only created me but loves me and has a purpose for my life (you and yours too). I still believe that the good news of Jesus is God’s power to save the world.

Looking back to the calling(s) God has placed on my life is the other thing that convinces me that I’m more than just a professional Christian. My decision to become a follower of Jesus pre-dates my first job as a minister by 15 years and the 11-year journey to becoming a Baptist Minister was full of answered prayer, godly advice, prophetic input, stand-out scriptures and practical provision. At the time it was frustratingly slow. But when I look back at that period of my life, there is no question in my mind that I sought out God and God directed my path.

So yes it’s my job to be a Christian. But I’m not a Christian because of my job – I’m a Christian because I really do believe in Jesus. I really do think he’s the ultimate revelation of God and that he’s calling you and me and everyone to be reconciled to our estranged Heavenly Father. And I’m in my job because God called me, as my Father, through his Son, in his Spirit to be a minister. Because he formed and shaped a desire in me to lead other people into the life he has for them – just as he has given this life to me.

Tom Wharin

Revd Tom Wharin

Tom has been the minister at Wotton-Under-Edge Baptist Church since 2010. He is married to Jo and they have four primary-school-aged kids. Amidst the wonderful busyness of ministry he occasionally also manages to squeeze in some mountain biking, which he loves.

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