Monday Devotional for Photographers – Full-time Ministry

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500

Capturing moments like this one in Togo, West Africa is what I thought many years ago would be my full-time career today.

In high school during a youth retreat I responded to what I believed was a call to full-time christian ministry. My church licensed me into the ministry. This was the first step down a process which I thought would have me doing ministry/missions full-time. Full-time meaning I would pay all my bills from being on staff of a missions agency.

I received this call while a senior in high school. My father, a pastor/missionary, gave me counsel. My father mentored me and guided me to avoid some of the mistakes that he made. Together we determined that I needed an education path.

You will open more doors with a master of divinity degree. This is required for most pastor and missionary positions. Before you can get masters you need a bachelor’s degree. This is where my father gave me some of the wisdom from his experience. He said there is basically two areas that he worked in a great deal that a master of divinity don’t prepare you very well.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2500

Most ministers and missionaries are the leaders of an organization and having a business degree would really help you with the administrative responsibilities. The second area was that as a counselor.

I decided to major in social work and then the plan was to go to seminary.

Well while in college I discovered photography and more specifically photojournalism. My senior year while on spring break I was offered a job as a photojournalist for a newspaper. I really didn’t see this as a departure from ministry but rather a call to a specialist role in ministry.

I met Don Rutledge my senior year in college and he would become my mentor. Rather than telling that entire story here you can read more here. Basically Don was a photojournalist who worked for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board as the main photographer for The Commission Magazine.

Just a year and half later I would get a phone call from Don Rutledge telling me about a photographer position on their staff.

I would spend five years working on the staff before they went through financial crisis and cut my position.

This was a great time it seemed to go ahead and attend seminary. This was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I thought I was going to study and learn all this theology that was going to help me and I did, but what I didn’t know was how much I would learn about education. I learned a lot about lesson planning and how people learned.

Upon graduating I thought I was now better equipped to help tell those missionary stories and I was a better communicator. However no positions opened up for me in the church. I did find a job at Georgia Tech.

The assignments here stretched me in other ways. I worked with Gary Meek and the two of us were helping to tell the stories that were shared through all kinds of media. We were published in many national magazines and newspapers as well as all the public relations materials for the school.

I thought my time at the school was God’s way of further preparing me for something in missions. Well it did help me in so many ways and I learned many new skills, which I use today.

For the past fifteen years I have been a full-time freelancer taking any job coming my way in photography and in communications to help pay the bills. I was helping NGO with web design. I had learned how to create my own webpage to help me with freelancing and then others heard and asked me to help them.

Every few years I would do a missions trip, but never did this turn into a full-time career. Last year I did four separate trips for missions and each one was for a week. The rest of my freelancing helped to pay the bills allowing me the ability to do those mission projects.

I am still longing for the opportunity to do full-time ministry work.

Nikon D3S, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 220, ƒ/2.8, 1/8000

Today I am asking myself did God really call me? If he did why am I not working full-time for an organization doing missions/ministry?

Most likely I am limiting God with all my questions. Maybe I am doing missions and ministry and my understanding of what defines ministry is more limiting than the way God sees it.

The one character in the bible I can relate to the most is Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob. He was given a dream that wouldn’t come true for most of his life. In telling of the story it wouldn’t be fulfilled until the very end of the story, which took most of his lifetime.

His older brothers knew Joseph as their father’s favorite. For this reason his 10 older brothers conspired against the boy and sold him to slave traders, while telling their father the boy had been mauled by an animal. Joseph had been given dreams of God’s plan for his life; so with confidence and strength, he endured in this amazing story in Genesis.

He would be falsely accused and thrown into jail. It would be his gift to interpret dreams that would have him later become a leader for the Pharaoh of Egypt and lead them through a time a famine and for the dream he had as a young boy to come true.

Are you too feeling depressed and beat down? Do you wonder if you were ever really called by God to pursue your profession?

Did you know that scripture most commonly associates those who minister for a paycheck as false ministers?

Matthew 6:24 – “No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of gold.”

The first missionary was Paul and he earned his living as a tentmaker. He said:

1 Corinthians 9:12 – If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.

Paul also instructed people to work and earn a living:

2 Thessalonians 3:11 – Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to such people-no, we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living.

The biblical word “pastor” is the same word for “shepherd” (which is simply a caring servant of God’s people) and, as a matter of fact, Jesus Himself made this point clear when he said the following about such “ministers”:

John 10:12-13 (MSG) – “A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.”

Christians did support Paul’s travels financially and Paul encouraged the Saints to consider those that spend their lives ministering the Gospel, but the gifts were given freely, from love and in response to need (ACTUAL NEED – i.e. FOOD AND CLOTHING).

1 Timothy 6:6-11 (NKJV) – Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

I fully believe that IF God has ordained their service than He will also fully provide every legitimate need they have. But the minister should not have a high and mighty opinion that he is above the need to earn his own living and provide for his family and ministry.

That provision may be having another job to pay the bills.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

If you have the money and time to do missions full-time then God wouldn’t get any credit, but if you lack money and time then when you get to do missions you know it is because of God and not your abilities that made it happen.