If I were deciding on a career today and did any sort of vocational testing, I am sure I wouldn’t have done dentistry. I would probably have ended up in law, or management or mass communication, but no, not dentistry. Fine detailed handwork is just not me, though I forced myself to learn and became a competent dentist. But I had a very hard time in dental school.

So why dentistry? Because dad and mum went through World War 2 and suffered a level of deprivation I would never be able to understand. They wanted to make sure their children did not suffer as they did. Where jobs were concerned, they wanted their children to get a job that promised financial security. And by God’s grace (my ‘A’-level grades were mediocre) I managed to get into dental school in Singapore.

Many parents of my generation do not want to repeat the mistakes our parents made, even though we know they meant well. Bernice and I encouraged our children to discover who they were and to pursue their passions — not to choose jobs purely on the basis of financial security. Very early on, all four told us they were not pursuing science in pre-university and beyond. But they all ended up in jobs that are making a difference in the world. We are very proud of them.

Mark is editor at MoneySmart
John is organisational development consultant at the Civil Service College, Singapore
Andrew is partnerships lead at Bitmaker — General Assembly, Toronto
Stephen, a church planter, will be holding his first worship in the first church he is planting, Regeneration Church, this coming Sunday

Stephen has an honours degree in marketing and management from Monash University. He worked for a number of years in the marketplace before he decided that God wanted him to be a church-planting pastor.

I am not sure what I said to him when he broke the news to me but I am pretty sure I know what I thought. Are you crazy? In 1981 I left dentistry to begin my theological studies, my first steps in the direction of church-related work. I have been in some form of church-related work since, serving as a pastor, on the staff of a number of parachurch organisations, and now, with Bernice, working at a ministry that seeks to promote spiritual friendship through publishing and training. Thirty-six years in church-related work, and I have the wounds and scars to show for it. Wasn’t sure I wanted any of our children to go through that kind of pain. Besides, the pastor’s job is an impossible one.

To be a pastor today, one needs to have the following competencies and be:

* a top-notch theologian;
* a powerful communicator/preacher;
* prophetic and rebuke the congregation when needed;
* a compassionate carer;
* providing inspirational leadership;
* able to do long-term strategic planning;
* an effective equipper; and
* someone who can walk on water.

Oh yes, and able to use PowerPoint.

I’d like to think that churches are a bit more enlightened today. Nowhere does the Bible teach about pastors who are multi-gifted. The pastor is one role among many (Ephesians 4:11–12) and it is the congregation that has a variety of spiritual gifts.

Still, one of our sons becoming a pastor? I had to pray through that. Two thoughts helped me come to terms with the fact that Stephen wanted to be a pastor. One, that following Christ in a fallen world, we all suffer in one way or another whether one is a pastor or not. Avoiding a call to the pastorate is no guarantee of avoiding pain. Two, I had to allow him the freedom to pursue his adventure of faith as I had. Indeed, as I reflected on my years in church-related work, yes there were terrible wounds but there were also joys that no amount of money could have bought. As I look back over the years, I have no regrets in my choice to follow God’s call to a church-related vocation.

We have never believed in a sacred-secular divide when it comes to work. All our boys are making a difference in the jobs they are doing. This Sunday, Stephen will be having his first service in the church he is planting. Pray for him. And if you are in Melbourne, maybe go by and encourage him?