The proposition was a simple one. The church needed both a janitor and an associate pastor. Unfortunately, they could only afford to hire one. I could tell that the pastor was trying to sell me on the arrangement, but his efforts were pointless. I had my mind made up before any attempt to convince me was made.
I had arrived six months prior to this conversation, and had fallen in love with the congregation. For the first time, in a long time, we felt connected and alive. It was a refreshing season for our family. Prior to our arrival, I had barely survived an attempt to balance working two jobs, run a family business, and serve as a worship/bilingual pastor at a small church. Sadly, I came to the realization that juggling was a talent reserved for clowns in a circus. To make a long story short, I face planted hard….and boy did it hurt. I became physically ill, and would literally start to run a fever, every time I stepped into the church building. When I figured out the source of my troubles, I had no other choice than to close my business, let go of one of my jobs, and resign from my pastoral role. It took several months for me to recover. However, I missed the ministry greatly, and prayed for an opportunity to serve again.
As the pastor sat with me, he explained the proposed arrangement. The church board was only willing to hire a janitor to clean the church. He, on the other hand, saw the need for an associate pastor. He had proposed that they offer me the job as a janitor, and ask me to serve as an associate pastor on a volunteer basis. Since they had just recently purchased a new church building, they could only afford a salary of $459.00 per month. This salary may seem like a slap in the face for some. However, my prior pastoral role came with a salary of approximately $20 a week. In my mind $459.00 was a huge increase from my previous salary.
In hindsight, I still don’t understand why I agreed to that arrangement so quickly. The situation surrounding my finances was unbelievably difficult. I was helping my wife raise her three children and we had no financial support from their father. My wife only had a salary of about $24,000 per year, and we had racked up quite a bit of debt. It was unrealistic to believe that we could survive on such a small salary. Nevertheless, I agreed to the arrangement and managed to live on that salary for the following three years.
Although staying afloat wasn’t easy, I can easily say that these years ended up being some of the best years of our life. We were surrounded with amazing people, we were growing in our relationship with God, and we witnessed the kingdom of God grow on a daily basis. Surprisingly, we saw God provide in ways that we never thought possible. We never went without a vehicle, we never went without food to eat, and somehow we were able to purchase a home. In addition, we were able to give to others out of abundance.
Today my life is very different. In our home, only my wife and I remain. However, our current salaries make our previous ones seem like chump change. While, we are by no means rich. We do well for ourselves. A few years ago, after receiving a promotion at work, one of the managers ask me how I felt about the promotion. Before, I could answer, I started to cry. I told her that I remembered how my wife and I used to pray and ask God to help provide a way for us to pay the rent, and how now I owned two homes. I told her that I remembered that at one point I used to have to stack onion sacks all day on a farm to buy my school clothes. I told her that I was grateful and I knew that my promotion was only given by the grace of God……. However, I wasn’t being 100% truthful to her. The truth was that I was also crying, because I knew what it was to be poor, and yet feel rich because I had Jesus in my life. The truth was that, I felt like Jonah running from my calling. However, instead of being stuck in belly of a fish, I was living like a King. The truth is that I knew that I was surrounded by God’s grace and I didn’t deserve any of it.
A few years have passed, and I’m trying to do things differently. I took a lower paying job so that I could be freed up to do ministry in Mexico. By no means am I hurting financially. However, I’ve come to understand that the richest things in life cannot be bought with money. The richest things in life are found in the hands of a heavenly father who is full of grace.
Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. Psalm 37:5 (NLT)
John Eli is a transformational life coach who has spent over 15 years mentoring individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. His resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher-education advising. From an early age, John recognized that God created him to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. He is currently walking out his purpose by helping others confront, and work through, any negative self-talk that keeps them from living life to the fullest. His ministry includes blogging, speaking, and personal development coaching. He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”
To schedule a coaching session with John Eli click here.