Ask Salt&Light: Should I leave the ministry for the marketplace?

Pastor Kevin Koh // September 28, 2018, 6:28 pm

pack up

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

Dear Salt&Light,

I have been working at a missions agency for five years as part of its administrative team. I am getting restless, and I feel like it is time to enter the marketplace. I have weighed both the pros and cons of this decision – I can be a Christian influence in a secular world and hopefully bring people to Christ. On the other hand, there are selfish reasons as well, such as having more money to support both myself and my parents. Should I make the switch?

Low RT, 32, ministry worker 

Changing jobs or making a career switch can be a stressful and daunting experience. Here are some perspectives which I trust you’ll find helpful as you continue to seek the Lord, and grapple with the realities from the spiritual and practical aspects.

1. Find out the cause of your “restlessness”

One reason for feeling restless at work could be because you’ve outgrown your current job scope, or your current work is becoming mundane after five years. You could be looking for job progression or desiring a more challenging role.

Try sharing your struggle with your immediate supervisor or person in charge. They can help to bring purpose and clarity to your work, and possibly offer some suggestions to relook at your job scope.

We seldom ask God whether it’s time to leave or we’ve passed His test in our current assignment. 

Be open and ready to hear what they have to say, and make the adjustments where possible. 

However, if you’ve shared your thoughts but nothing can be done, most people at this point will choose to quit and leave the organisation.

But I believe the right approach is to come before the Lord, search your heart, and ask Him what is His best for you during this season of your life.

We often pray very hard to land that dream job. But when things go wrong at work, we asked God for a sign to leave.

We seldom ask God whether it’s time to leave or whether we’ve passed His test in our current assignment. Whatever it is, don’t leave prematurely.

2. Check your work attitude

The Hebrew word for worship is “avodah”, and interestingly this is also the root word for work.

In Exodus 34:21, “avodah” means work: “Six days you shall work (avodah).”

In other verses, “avodah” means worship, as in: “This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship (avodah) Me.” (Exodus 8:1)

Your work is as spiritual unto God as your worship.

It is a powerful image to think that the word for working in the fields is the same word used for worshiping God. This tells us that God’s original design and desire is that our work and our worship would be a seamless way of living.

In other words, your work is your worship. Your work is as spiritual unto God as your worship.

One of my work mantras is: Never abandon a sinking ship. I’ve learnt so much from this because I’ve seen impossible situations made possible by the grace of God, if we don’t give up so easily.

Perhaps you need to change your work attitude and find ways to add value to your work, and ask yourself: “How can I do it better?”.

3. Accept the reality of the marketplace

If the missions agency is your first job after graduation, you may find the marketplace a rude shock in terms of company culture and values, work ethics, people’s behaviour and their moral standards. You need to be mentally prepared for this.

If you’ve worked in the marketplace before, then you’ll understand that their pace of work can be hectic and more intense than your current workplace. Also, after being away from the marketplace for five years, there is a lot to catch up on. Your learning curve can be steep as things can really move fast and furious.

As for reaching out to people, it depends on the nature of the job. Unless you’re very intentional and purposeful about this, you may not have the time and energy to influence people the way you intend, as you’re more likely to be swamped with workload and deadlines.

 4. Never leave for the love of money

It is important and a good thing to want to have the financial means to take care of your parents and to bless others. At the same time, be careful not to overwork yourself by earning more money.

We need to ask ourselves: “How much money is enough?”

The Word of God tells us in Proverbs 27:20 that “the desires of men’s hearts are insatiable”. 

Money is seldom the main reason people quit their jobs. People don’t leave jobs, they leave relationships.

No amount of money will ever be enough. So don’t compare with others because there will always be someone better off than you, and someone who is worse off than you.

“Godliness with contentment is itself great wealth,” the apostle Paul reminds us (1 Timothy 6:6).

Oftentimes, our parents would prefer our company than eating at nice restaurants or travelling round the world. They are aware that they don’t have much time left and that every moment spent together is priceless because money can’t buy back time. So giving your time is the best gift to your parents.

One more thing: Money is seldom the main reason people quit their jobs. People don’t leave jobs, they leave relationships.

So if there is any unresolved relationship issues in your current workplace, please humble yourself and ask God for wisdom on how to resolve them before you leave the organisation.

 5. Test the market

While seeking the Lord for direction, perhaps you can send out résumés to apply for the jobs you’re interested in and test the market. Secure some interviews and see where the Lord leads you. It could be an open door or a closed one.

And finally, having done all you can, it is important to update your leader or pastor of your intention. They are your spiritual covering and will walk you through this journey. There is safety in the midst of good counsellors.

May the outcome of your decision glorify our Heavenly Father.

About the author

Pastor Kevin Koh

Pastor Kevin Koh joined Cornerstone Community Church as a full-time pastor in 2012, following a successful career as the Head of Information Technology in a multinational company. His passion is to see believers living purposefully and powerfully, especially in the marketplace. He is also actively involved in mentoring the younger generation.