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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Shepherd or Starbucks?

For me, the ministry is more than a profession. Perhaps it’s that understanding that keeps me in the game.

I admit: there have been times in my ministry when I’ve been enticed to believe that a position in a corporate setting would be more attractive. And, when times are unusually testing (like when the sheep are biting), I’m tempted to trade my shepherd’s staff for a position as a barista at a high-quality coffee establishment.

It’s easy to see the lushness of a profession different than the one we’re in – especially when our soul is dry, thirsty, and desperate. It’s tempting to convince ourselves: there’s a better team to join than the one we’re on, or that we deserve better than we’re getting. But here’s the thing…

… At the end of the day, I understand that I was – and am – chosen; called by God to shepherd the flock. Ministry is endurable, rewarding, and fulfilling when things are going well.

My vocation, to which I’m called, is equally manageable, gratifying, and satisfying even in times of dryness and desperation when I remember my calling.

Parker Palmer reminds us:

“Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like it to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.”[1]

That’s the difference between choosing a profession and being called to a vocation. The soul of leadership begins with our authentic self. Not who we think we are, would like to be, or who others believe us to be.

Looking through the rearview mirror, I see how God has – and continues – to use the peculiarities of my life; my heritage, personality, shortcomings, weaknesses, mistakes, and passions.

Shepherds need to eat, too. They need refreshment, rest, and times to enjoy the scenery. Here’s what I’ve learned (and continue to discover): I’m more prone to see the lushness of a new profession when I’ve neglected the care of my soul.

The Psalmist (quite familiar with shepherding) acknowledged his own need for a shepherd:

“God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows; you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.” [2]

If you’re tempted to trade your staff for a career at Starbucks, perhaps it’s time to find refreshment for your soul.

[1] From Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer.

[2] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Ps 23:1–3.

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