How church ministry is like Apple

Think different.

This was ad campaign that launched the rise of Apple Computer. Its rallying cry was to “…the ones who see things differently . . . because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

This phrase encapsulates the experience of many of us who are called to ministry. Not only do we “think different,” but we “ARE different.” In fact, to some people, we are downright weird!

Those of you who are in ministry know what I’m talking about. Have a conversation with someone outside of the church and tell them you’re a pastor. It’s a great way to shut down a conversation or create an awkward moment. (Perhaps it is a good way to get some alone time if you don’t feel like talking to someone!)

Even people who are part of the church don’t get us. “What do you do all week? Don’t you only work on Sunday?” It’s a struggle for them to try to figure out what people in ministry do from 9–5 during a weekday.

Then there is the element of being Asian. Whether I know it or not, I have certain ways of thinking, acting, and communicating that is influenced by my culture. I have served a large part of my ministry years in Anglo churches. Well-meaning people have unintentionally said or done things that are insensitive to my cultural understandings. I don’t blame them — they didn’t know. But it made me feel different from others.

For some of us called to ministry, we also have the difference of being women, as women in pastoral ministry are a rare breed. I’m terrible at leading children’s ministry and women’s ministry, which is where many women in ministry end up. God has given me gifts in leadership, strategy, systems, and teaching, and a passion for ministering to adults. I love to listen to leadership podcasts and today I did an exegetical study of Hebrew words in Deuteronomy. I’m not sure how many people would get how much fun I think that is. I’m weird. I know I’m not like others.

We are all called in different ways, and called to different roles. But those who are in vocational ministry know that we don’t fit “the norm,” and sometimes we battle the feeling that we are all alone.

There is a solution to this isolation. Instead of feeling like we are different and alone, we can embrace the Apple mantra. Think different.

1. Embrace the difference. The fact is, we are called to be different. God has chosen to “set apart” some people specifically for the work of ministry (Acts 13:2). These people have a special and unique role to play in the advancement of God’s kingdom. This is a great privilege and responsibility. We’re not called to an easy life, but one that will fulfill God’s purposes. We are honored to be receive this calling!

2. Partner with others. Paul had a Barnabas in his life. I always used to pray for a Barnabas in my life, one with whom I could do everything in ministry together. I now realize that instead of providing one Barnabas, God has given me a myriad of Barnabases. Each person is important and is a partner for a specific purpose. I have a Barnabas prayer partner, a Barnabas ministry friend, a Barnabas co-director of an event, a Barnabas community to share my life. These are all different people, but I am grateful for each person’s role in reminding me I am not alone in the journey.

3. Gather in the larger ministry community. This is why I love the Thirty Network. Through this ministry, we have an opportunity to rub shoulders with like-minded people. Although we walk in many different contexts, we share the burden for ministry and the passion for furthering the kingdom. We are with others who understand the challenges of navigating the Asian culture in the United States. I can talk with others and hear their challenges and be encouraged that I am not alone, and we can dream together for the future.

Weird. Wonderful. Walking in God’s will. This is what it is like to be called to ministry and to live in God’s obedience. We think different. We live different. We are different. And when we do, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are changing the world.

Angela Yee is currently the Director of Ministry and Missions at Saddleback Church Irvine South in Irvine, California. Angela authored The Christian Conference Planner and The Christian Conference Planner Toolkit, published by SummitStar Press.

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