The Higher Calling

Originally published March 2003.

I've been in this youth ministry "game" for 21 years. I remember time after time hearing youth speaker after youth speaker put out the call for youth to go into full-time ministry. While I have great respect for those who decide to spend their lives on the mission field (and we need more of these), I have come under a huge conviction that today we need to put out the greater call for our youth to be video game programmers, TV producers, government policy makers, scientists, Boys & Girls Club directors, and writers. I am married to a magazine editor and his work and witness reaches more and influences more than I ever will in full-time ministry. He is also in a position to be the moral influence on his entire industry. This provides for me life lessons on jealousy as I follow my call as the evangelist and live vicariously through him.

If you truly want to influence your youth to find their calling, call them to career professions where they can have influence and have relationships with the movers and shakers of our culture. If you want to influence your youth to reach other youth as their calling, call them to become teachers. A Christian teacher does have a more lasting influence on a youth, particularly those who never make it to your youth ministry but are required to spend that 1 hour 5 days a week with that teacher. For those who love youth, teaching truly is the higher calling.

Following is an article from an acquaintance that expresses my convictions better.

 Mr. Holland's Opus by Dave Holland

"When I was in high school, I saw Mr.Holland's Opus at the theatre. I hated it. I was upset Mr.Holland never became a composer like he wanted to. Instead, he remained just a teacher. Okay, I admit (at the time) I completely missed the message.

"I recently saw the film again and it moved me---maybe because I saw myself in Mr.Holland. I wanted to be a professional church pastor. I wanted to go to seminary, preach every Sunday, have an office...a church of my own. Maybe write a book on ministry and become a 'voice for a generation.' But first, I decided to teach high school English for a year---then I'd pursue my 'real career.' Three years later, I'm still teaching and I couldn't imagine anywhere else I'd rather be.

"Not that it wasn't a difficult realization, it was. I'm still dealing with it. So let's see how you deal with it:

"Mr. Hopkin's Opus
I will never become a professional church pastor.
I will never go to seminary.
I will not preach every Sunday.
I will never have an office.
I will never have my own church.
I will never write a book on ministry.
Some mega-pastors make a six figure salary, I will probably never make beyond $50,000.
I will never live in a large house in a gated community.
My voice will never go beyond my circle of friends and the students I teach.

"I will remain just a teacher.

"While I will never go to seminary, I will teach future lawyers and doctors and politicians and thousands more who will take care of you.

"I do not preach every Sunday. I preach for an hour and a half, four times a day, Monday through Friday. My sermons are truly 'interactive.' I do not give altar calls. I simply watch my students grow up before me. I will spend more quality time with your children in the next year, than you will.

"I do not have an office. I have a classroom. A hundred students enter in everyday. I cannot shut the door. I cannot take the afternoon off to play golf with my pastor buddies. I cannot leave to attend a conference during my work week.

"I will never have my own church. I partner with other teachers. I share the burden. My students have dealt with death in their family, divorce, cancer, drug abuse, unhealthy relationships, apathy, the fear of war, violence. And yet they still come to class everyday.

"I will never write a book on ministry. I'm too busy attending football games, school plays, judging debate tournaments, proctoring the PSATs, and running the chess club.

"I will never make six figures. I will live simply, humbly, without pretense.

"My voice will not reach this generation, but I will change the lives of students I care for, and that is more than enough.

"You pastors get so excited about foreign missionaries, and neglect the everyday church goer who works hard at their unimpressive job. You pastors freak about attendance and offering, and forget to lay yourself down. You pastors measure your success by programs and buildings, and forget about transforming the community around you. You pastors dream of fancy titles and recognition, and I am ashamed for you.

I will never be one of you. I'm just a teacher."

(David Hopkins is the former editor-in-chief of Next-Wave. He graduated from Texas A&M University at Commerce with a degree in English and Philosophy. David is a community pastor at Axxess. In addition to his work at Axxess, David teaches literature and composition at Martin High School.)

That is a calling worth a life. Becoming a magazine editor is a worthy calling. What can your youth do with what they love to change their world? This is something you can do something about. When you actually put out a call for someone to become a video game programmer or writer and to begin to teach them how to use that position to influence the culture for God, that youth can suddenly put feet to his/her dreams and find God's way through it all.

I know the church is not supposed to be a respecter of people but it seems to put missionaries on a very high scale, then pastors and then whatever else people do day in and day out. Missionaries do deserve that high scale because they are worldchangers but next on that scale are the workers who help run this planet day in and day out and are worldchangers as they are doing it. That is the higher calling.