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How I Made the Transition from the Corporate World To Ministry World

It’s probably the question I get asked most often. I got it last week from a man who is a practicing CPA and a successful entrepreneur, but feels something is missing in his life. He’s highly skilled in the corporate world, but has always felt this certain calling to full-time vocational ministry. The problems is he doesn’t quite know how to make the transition from one world to the other.

How does he enter vocational ministry, such as get a job on a church staff, and, ultimately, continue to support his family financially?

I get the question all the time. I wish I had a formula and a good answer. I don’t.

My story has a simple answer. 

I jumped.

I jumped with two feet into the vocational ministry world. One day my resume had me in the corporate world where I had gone up the ranks in a large corporation, been a small business owner (twice) and served in an elected office – the next day my vocation was in the ministry world. I took a Joshua 3 leap of faith. (You can look up the reference, but basically God told priests carrying the ark of God to cross a body of water, but God made the priests get in the water before He parted the water.)

I didn’t have a position or title. I had no guarantee of a paycheck – and we didn’t have a large “nest egg” in the bank. My wife and I didn’t even know what I would be doing or how we would support our two young sons or pay our mortgage. We simply knew God was responsible for my employment for that next (and current) season of my life. It didn’t make sense at the time, but God did.

It was actually very freeing. I had been wrestling for 8 months after the sale of a business. The “jump” allowed me to focus on what I could do and I got out of the way of God doing what only He could do. That first week I began “working for God” someone I knew called me about a church looking for a pastor to help them revitalize. It was almost an hour from my house and, at the time, I didn’t see myself as a pastor, so I committed a year to help them. They paid me half our estimated budget and we raised the rest. (Actually God mysteriously raised the rest from people we never asked for money.)

We left that church not knowing where we would go next, but another group of people, a little further from our house, called and asked me to help them start/plant a church. We didn’t feel led to move our boys so I committed 2 years to help them. After that we planted another church and helped revitalize another – and there are long stories attached to each one, but that’s our story.

It hasn’t ever been “easy”, but God has been so incredibly faithful. Each time we have sensed God doing something new He has provided. In this new season at Leadership Network (which was another jump of faith) we get to be involved with thousands of churches and we feel the hand of God moving ahead of us again. And He remains faithful.

Again, I’m asked how I made the transition so many times. Now you know a part of our story. I always feel, however, there is more I need to share if you are in a similar wrestling time with God.

A few considerations I would share from my story to yours:

Your story won’t be mine. Don’t try to judge your situation by anyone else’s. I have only found one story of a burning bush in my Bible. Or a Damascus Road transformation. Or a prostitute who protected the men that were spying the land.

Don’t discount the voices of others. I had countless people trying to speak into my life when I was “wrestling” after the sale of a business. Many people, including my wife, saw what I couldn’t see – or didn’t try to see. One man had the nerve and boldness to push me in the right places just when I need him to do so and challenged me to make the jump. I’m thankful for each gentle nudge and the not so subtle shoves.

You may need connections to land a “church job”. For me, the first call came from nowhere. Literally. I didn’t see it coming. But, it was someone who knew me (although he didn’t know my current situation), thought I’d be a good fit to help the first church, and called me to see if I would be interested. In my experience, God usually works through other people in whom He has also been working in their life.

You may be doing the “ministry” you’re supposed to be doing. This may be the biggest word you need to hear. Don’t discount what you are doing today. I wish someone had told me when I was in the business world that what I was doing was just as important as a Kingdom-role to what I would ever do in vocational ministry. I wish someone in professional vocational ministry had given me “permission” to be on mission in the places where I was already working.

If you need someone to give you that permission let me be that voice in your life today. God’s plan for you may still be in the corporate world. Oh, how we need marketplace missionaries – who see their work as Kingdom work. We need men and women who see themselves in ministry, yet remain in the corporate world.

Or, like me, God may have an assignment for you in the local church – or in a non-profit like the one where I serve now. If so – if that is His plan – He will provide the path in His time. In the meantime, keep serving Him wherever you are. That’s the most important point of this post.

If you’re wrestling – keep wrestling. Finding out what God has for you is always worth it. 

And, if God makes it clear to you, don’t be afraid to jump.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Scott Kroeger says:

    HI Ron,
    Your story speaks to what I have been “wrestling” with for several years. I have been in the corporate world for almost 30 years as an executive in marketing and business development. I have had a few great mentors in my life, one a former pastor who has just turned 90. Many years ago, he encouraged me to make an appointment with God everyday. He said if your (company) CEO had a standing appointment with you, would you tell him ‘I’m not coming?’ How much more does the CEO of all Creation, Lord above ALL, deserve my full attention? From that point forward, though with a few struggles in the beginning, I began meeting with Jesus every morning through the reading of Scripture and prayer. It has completely changed my life in a way where I cannot start a day without that time with the Lord.

    Over the past 4 years, I have been working for a company based in New York and commuting between my home in New Hampshire and multiple locations. I ran a business for this company for 3 years and am now a corporate marketing executive reporting to the CEO. In the last four years, there have been scorched desert experiences for my family and me as I have spent a lot of time away from home. In this period, however, I have prayed over and over for God to direct me. Lonely and feeling like it was time to get out, God continued to nudge me to press on. I look back and realized that there are so many circumstances where I had no resources, was strapped for time, running multiple projects simultaneously and running myself into the ground. But God would continually come through and deliver me, even in the depths of my weariness. The experience I have had in business is a gift from God and has allowed me to become a more competent and effective businessman. Today, I firmly believe that God has been using this time to build character, integrity, perseverance, and mostly – complete dependence on Him. He has taught me how truly the “faith of a mustard seed” can move mountains.

    Today, I feel as though God is calling me into a new phase of ministry in my life and it may be time for me to take a leap of faith. I am in my early 50’s now, but I believe God can use each of us, regardless of our age, in amazing, and new ways if we choose to surrender and walk into the unkown with Him. I have a greater hope today than ever in my life, and I continue to pray for God to lead me forward. He already knows the path before me, and I can take each step confident that though the path may not be paved in gold, He is faithful!

    Thank you for sharing a part of your story. God has gifted you and challenged you. In doing so, He has been victorious in using your story to reach others like me. Keep doing what you’re doing for Him!