Full Time

One of the most difficult things about this job, as any professional minister will tell you, is figuring out what the job is. Sure, lots of churches go to great lengths to define the roles of their staff members. And I answered a pretty well-written job request when I came to the field. But no matter how hard we try to make it look like one, my job will never be a real job. Even if I punch a clock, it won’t ever begin at 8:30 am and end at 6:00 pm. Being a church planter defies planning. Preparation, of course, but there is no way to schedule the birth and growth of a spiritual family.

Busyness comes in waves. We’ll have a hundred volunteers in one month, and that’s when national friends come out of the woodwork to spend time with us. Then we’ll go months without a call. We find ourselves pursuing anyone who will take our calls. So far, the only way we’ve found to guarantee that people call us is to schedule a vacation. As soon as we book our flights we’re certain to get an invitation to a wedding or baptism or soccer game.

A lot of what we do seems like busywork. We fill out reports. We start projects, make contacts, and build websites. Sometimes, it’s easy to get so caught up in the preparation for ministry that we don’t have time to, you know, minister.

I’m still not sure if we all start out that way, or if it’s being on the field that affects us, but missionaries are weird. We work really hard to learn language, which ends up making us really dumb in our own language. We talk about missing things like Wal-Mart and American Idol and customer service. We still wear the clothes we bought off the Gap sale rack while we were on our last stateside assignment. In 1997.

Our job depends on something only God can do. Only He can save someone. Only He knows the heart of the people we’re here to love. Only He can start a movement of faith among these people. My job is “Church Planter,” but only God can plant a church. Sometimes, I wish I was a mechanic or something. A job where you’re done when the car is fixed or the clock strikes six, whichever comes first.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.