When God was calling me to something new, every sin I’d ever committed flashed before my eyes, and it was a really long flashback.
The flashback was the first thing that happened when I began to digest the idea of becoming a pastor. Then, my brain started turning into mashed potatoes as I thought about the idea of jumping into full-time ministry.
Before I ever thought my calling would be to pursue full-time ministry, I had a comfortable life and a successful career in the restaurant industry. My wife and I started attending Chase Oaks (then Fellowship Bible Church North) in our twenties. Eventually, we started serving and leading small groups. By the time we were in our thirties (she still is), I was seeing God do some pretty cool things in my life, my neighborhood, and my workplace. So much so that this little dream started to pop into my head of going into full-time ministry. And every time that dream came up, I dug a six-foot hole, buried it, and lit it on fire.
Struggling with the Big Three
1. Feelings of Inadequacy
I was not “worthy” of being a pastor. My flashback reminded me of my inadequacies. God could still “use me” but just not in that capacity.
2. Fear of the Unknown
I had two really nice careers going, that I enjoyed, was pretty good at, and would have to walk away from. Not knowing what my new career and lifestyle would look like, it was hard for me to make this decision.
3. Anxious about Finances
The pay cut. Just being honest here. I was making good money, and the thought of cutting my pay by more than half, not to mention greatly reducing the overall trajectory of future income, was so counter-cultural to what I had been driving so hard to achieve for the last 20 years. For so long, I had been telling myself the best way to support my family was to provide as much financial firepower as possible.
On one hand, God was putting a dream in my heart. On the other hand, I was struggling with three big issues. So, you can imagine my inner struggle when Former Campus Pastor Jason Williams and his wife, Joy Williams, invite my wife, Crystal, and I out for a dinner, a dinner I thought would be about volunteering at the soon-to-launch 544/Woodbridge Campus (we live in Woodbridge). Instead of that invite, Jason asks if I’d be open to interviewing for a pastor role that recently opened up. And then it happened—the sin flashback and my brain turning into mashed potatoes.
Overcoming the Big Three
1. Feelings of Inadequacy, Shame, and Self-doubt
I turned to the people that knew me best: my wife, my parents (who knew about 90% of those “sinful flashbacks”), a good friend who was a former LifeGroup buddy/accountability partner, and a pastor, Gabe DeGarmeaux, who knew the other 10%. I can’t get into all the details of all those conversations. But I can tell you the candor, encouragement, and support I received from their counsel was huge. But it was still not enough to convince me this was a good idea.
2. Fear of the Unknown
Honestly, I was scared to leave the restaurant industry because I was experienced in it and I loved it. To this day, there are things I miss about it. It was my adult life’s work. I spent 20 years (17 years with Saltgrass) in the restaurant industry.
Facing a decision like this will make you look to the Bible for answers, so my daily reading plan was a lot more consistent during the two-month pastoral interview process. I’m ADD, so when I read a verse, I usually end up wondering to the chapters before and after (if they interest me). By the time I’m done, God has usually taken me somewhere I never really intended.
Kind of crazy, but on this particular day (no idea where I started), I came across a verse that God showed me during this season of life.
“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.’” (Acts 6:2)
3. Finding Peace with Finances
I have run businesses, I love a good spreadsheet, and I know the importance of making sure the numbers make sense. The frightening reality had set in that Chase Oaks actually wanted me for the role. I thought we were just talking. I did not think they’d actually want me.
Now, it was time to make the decision. I had overcome most (I’m currently still struggling with some) of the inadequacy issues and the loss of a career I’d worked so hard to build. But could I give up the financial security I’d been building my entire adult life?
I crunched the numbers every spare moment I had, and I just couldn’t make it work. The church was great about the whole process. The staff said, “we totally understand if you can’t make this work” and “take as much time as you need.”
But I had a wife that was going crazy not knowing the future. Crystal is an incredible woman and trusts my leadership (despite my shortcomings). She would follow me anywhere, but she needs to know where we’re going. I gave the church a self-imposed deadline: “By next Monday, I’ll have an answer.”
Hearing God’s Calling
I remember waking up that Monday not knowing what I was going to do. I was off work that day, so I took the kids to school. When Crystal left for her job, I started to dive into that spreadsheet. Staring at the grids, lines, and numbers, frustrated and clueless, I thought to myself, you’ve spent more time trying to make this decision with this laptop than with God.
Then, boom, it hit me! I’m already a terrible pastor! I closed the laptop, grabbed my Bible, and went to the backyard to talk to God about this.
It didn’t take long before I felt God saying to me (not in an audible voice or anything), “Todd, do you believe I’ve created you to do this? Todd, could you use your past experiences to serve others in a unique way?”
“Yes,” I said in my mind. But I was still not ready to make this move. I asked God, “How will I provide for my family?”
Then, I felt God saying, “Do you trust me? If it’s my plan for you to do this, do you trust that I will provide?”
“Yes, God, I’m scared to death, but I trust You.”
Responding to God’s Calling
It’s been over three years, and it’s been awesome! I still have a lot to learn, but the rewards of identifying God’s will and trusting/relying on Him has grown me closer to Him than ever before.
Throughout this process, I learned an important lesson. No matter our title or who signs our paycheck (Jeff Jones or Jerry Jones), if you’re a Christ-follower, you work for God. If you’re on the fence on that statement, stop reading this blog, check out Colossians 3:23, and holla back at me.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23).
Whether our job is our calling or our job is the mission field for our calling, we can fulfill our purpose if we work for God’s purposes and if we are open to hearing Him calling us.
We all struggle with feelings of inadequacy, fear of the unknown/failure, and anxiety about finances. But I found that seeking wise counsel, getting into the Word, and taking time to talk and to listen to God are the keys to making big decisions and living out your calling.