About twice a month, I receive an email that goes something like this:
"I am currently in full-time ministry as a pastor/youth minister/worship leader, but sense the Lord is calling me to get involved in organic/simple/house church. The problem is that ministry is the only thing I have been trained for, and I have a family to support. Do you have any ideas as to what I can do?"
I often begin my response with our story.
Tony (my husband) and I both trained as physicians in the UK, but when the Lord called us to move here to the States, our medical licenses didn't transfer and it would have taken four to five years to relicense. That didn't bother us, because for the previous few years Tony's had headed up a ministry that worked with people in the caring professions, teaching them how to bring their Christian faith into their professional lives. This had spread to several other countries, and we assumed, (naively, as it turned out), that the Lord wanted us to start it here too.
The ministry failed spectacularly here in the States. Doctors just weren't interested in what we had to share. Only the Holy Spirit could have shut the doors so firmly.
What were we to do?
We soon ran through our savings. No one wanted to employ two unlicensed physicians, and so we found ourselves doing all kinds of menial work in order to put food on the table. We sold door-to-door during the hot Texas summers. We worked in flea markets. I learned how to feed a family with four kids on 4 ounces of hamburger meat per meal (the answer lies in oatmeal). Our kids were clothed from thrift stores. We struggled to make a living. It was hard, humiliating, and financially unrewarding.
However, it was very good for us. It was character forming. We quickly lost our "entitlement mentality" (I'm working for the Kingdom and therefore other Christians should support me.) We easily related to others who have to work hard for a living. Rather than live in a Christian bubble, we had lots of not-yet-believing friends who we met in our various business endeavors.
After nine years of this, the Lord gave us the idea that now provides for us. For a long time we had been praying fervently from Deuteronomy 8: 18:
But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
We asked the Lord to give us an idea that would create wealth, and one day He dropped an idea into our minds. Within three or four days, we had started a business, and within a week it was obvious that it would be profitable. Over the years, it has grown to the point where we are now free to do whatever the Lord calls us to do.
Why nine years? I believe it was God's training school on the backside of the desert, preparing us for the things we now involve in and for the influence we carry. Who knows, maybe it took that long for Him to deal with our character issues.
Would I choose to go through it again? No way! But I'm very glad we did live through it for the incredible lessons it gave us. We proved from our own experience that God always provides; He is always faithful. We learned to be ordinary rather than on the pedestal of being a physician or full-time minister. We relate to the struggles of those who are challenged financially. These kinds of life-lessons are invaluable and cannot be gained any other way.
In the next post I plan to explore this subject further, but would be very interested to hear from others about the financial transition from legacy church to simple church.