The calling into the ministry is an awesome thing. It’s uplifting, deeply touching, and convicting. Ministry is a sacred calling. There’s the still small voice you hear, a dream that God is calling you, and significant events or a burning bush experience that contribute to the sense that God is calling you to the Pastoral Ministry. So, like Isaiah, you say, “Here Am I Send Me.” Then you got a call to pastor a certain church or a district. Truly you are excited, grateful, and trusting that God is leading the way. You took the ride and enjoyed it. But soon, things get messy. It’s like you have a lot of steam and dreams about what you plan to do, but in reality, the rubber hits the road, and things do not go the way you expect. There are rough sections with many obstructions, distractions, detours, humps, and bumps along the way.
My Brief Ministry Story:
I have been in the ministry for 48 years, with my wife Dinah (Liwanag) of 45 years and blessed with three children, one died in a car accident at 13 (a crucible experience), and I have seven grandchildren. Without a doubt, these many years in the ministry with my family are the greatest blessings from the Lord.
Through the years, God led me to serve in different areas of the church’s functions, such as a district pastor, Academy Bible teacher, Guidance Counselor, evangelist, Conference, and Union department director, president of a mission, sole pastor, and then a senior pastor.
I love my work. And whatever God has put in my hands, I do it with all my heart, strength, and dedication. My goal is to do it well and succeed.
There are things that I enjoy most in the ministry: the visitation, Bible studies, public evangelism, baptism, mission trips, and helping those in need spiritually and materially. I always feel so blessed after helping others and church members in some ways.
I love mentoring young pastors to develop, grow, and improve their leadership and pastoral skills. By God’s grace, several ministers in the Philippines and the US acknowledged and testified that I had been a mentor to them in one way or another. I recently met some of them at the ministerial convention and other church-sponsored events. Being involved in the preparation of young ministers for their ordination is one of my satisfactions and joys. I rejoice and thank the Lord deeply for such opportunities.
Each church community has been richly blessed with an active prayer ministry. My wife is outstanding support and inspiration to me, in my work, and inspiration to churches that we’ve served. Her prayer ministry initiative is a significant part of the church’s stability, success, and growth.
However, through these years, some aspects of life’s important matters have been neglected and suffered. The realization came later after some family situations arose. After things went south, I realized I needed to pay attention. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reclaim the time lost and opportunities squandered. Feelings of pain and regret would sweep over me. I realized that the cares of the ministry had kept me away from my personal and intentional time with God and my family.
We’ve heard this before, “we are busy in ministry but in doing so made us drift away from the God of the ministry.” Married people understand that a dynamic relationship is vital to the success of a marriage. To achieve this, a couple has to spend intentional and quality time with each other. They put the mundane things as secondary and the time with each other as the primary. When we spend time with someone or something, we develop relationships.
That’s true with those I have spent time with. I developed a relationship that resulted in lasting friendships and closeness. This relationship could be very positive. Yet it could also turn negative if one is not careful in observing boundaries. Once boundaries are crossed, things get worse if not immediately checked and corrected—a true with all relationships.
MY BRIEF MINISTRY STORY:
In retrospect, the high honor associated with being a pastor, and or for having a leadership position, with the high expectations of both leaders and constituents, made me work long hours. There was always a need here and there to fill. Meetings, invitations, and events are numerous. There are programs to promote and follow up. Then there are those critics and non-supportive, which made me work more to find ways to meet their demands. But no matter what I did, they were still unmoved and remained unchanged. It bothered me. Unhealthy moments and sleepless nights occurred.
Consumed, it led me to neglect spending precious time with my family and, above all, with God! I missed many family occasions and important family events because of a tight ministry schedule. We were always reminded not to be away from our district and responsibilities. When my wife gave birth to our first child, I was not there to support her. A family friend took her to the hospital while I was far away in the district doing the ministry--not a good example to follow.
There was also always a need to support at church or a family in need, which affected our finances. Due to this, my wife and I considered leaving the ministry to work elsewhere. But God showed up to meet our needs. We both finished graduate studies which helped in refocusing our priorities. In this, we are reminded that God knows and can supply all our needs. He takes care of us as we devote ourselves to Him. And He did!
In time, God opened the way for us to serve in the NAD territory. It is different, yet the ministry’s expectations, challenges, temptations, and trials to overcome are the same. And when we moved to the US, we had many things to work on, make adjustments, and learn a new culture. I thank God for He gave me another opportunity, a new beginning, in serving Him.
In my relocation, however, I did not have my perspectives, priorities, and spiritual discipline in proper order. Spiritual disciplines and rhythm were not consistent. I again found myself so busy with the ministry. Most of the time, I missed enough time with God and my family.
THE JOURNEY MADE A DIFFERENCE
Since I joined the JOURNEY things, have changed slowly but growing on target. I am more focused on what Jesus has called me to be. To come to Him and follow Him, and become a disciple of Jesus. Growth developed by abiding in Jesus—having a meaningful relationship with the Lord.
The JOURNEY is the SECC’s initiative to help pastors to grow and bear fruit by spending intentional and meaningful time with God. Here’s an excerpt from Pastor Jonathan Parks, SECC president, an article addressed to SECC pastors to introduce the JOURNEY. He says, “In the midst of God’s creation, we pray together, abide in God’s word together and build community together. We spend time alone with God and with each other in a caring, accountable unhurried environment. In between retreats we seek to live out the principles and rhythms of God’s grace we have learned in our families and church communities. We continue to coach and encourage each other, and share what God is doing in our midst.” (https:// seccministerial.org/the-journey).
The JOURNEY has helped me a lot to realign my priorities in ministry. The most powerful and effective ministry model that I learned is presented in a Pitcher/Cup/Saucer/Plate image. Through this illustration, ministry becomes more relevant, appealing, uplifting, and transforming. It is a powerful reminder to prevent me from going back to my old default in ministry. Here’s how the Pitcher, Cup, and Saucer model works presented in a children’s story at Calimesa SDA Church. Access this link: https://calimesa.adventistfaith.org/uploaded_assets/58454-Pitchercupsaucerplatestory-part2-1.pdf? thumbnail=original&1443093530.
Lesson learned in Ministry: Be intentional, and consistent in spending quality time with God daily. A minister cannot give more than what he or she has. Let your cup be filled and let the grace of God overflow naturally to others.
It’s a process and a lifetime commitment. Being always aware of Apostle Paul’s motto, “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12.
Author - Jon Ciccarelli
January 28, 2021