When I began my studies at Denver Seminary in 2014, I never imagined working at a gas station after graduation. There is nothing wrong with such work, it’s just that my focus was on serving the local church, and I couldn’t see past that vision. I was certain God had called me to plant a church.
I’m coming up on a year since the completion of my last class at Denver Seminary. I’m managing a gas station in my hometown without any signs of church ministry on the horizon.
God is teaching me many things about Himself through this season of life. After the initial shock of failed expectations, I’m beginning to realize that this is a great season of ministry. In what follows, I’d like to share with you five things I’m learning about God while working at a gas station.
- His plan is better than my plan.
We all make plans. Most people I talk with can tell me where they plan to be in the next 5 to 10 years. These plans are perhaps more pronounced with my college-aged friends; however, every age has a plan for their future, whether they are thinking about the end of the day or years down the road. Planning is good and wise.
I had great plans for ministry heading into seminary and as far back as my conversion to Christ. I can remember the season I accepted the gospel and recall having a desire for vocational ministry during that time. Shortly after I accepted Christ, I enrolled in college where I could study the Bible and theology to prepare for my vocation. Thus far, God has had other plans for my life.
If I have learned anything about God over the years, it is that He is really good. He has always desired the hearts of His people. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). His plans are perfect. Though I have often fought them, I’m learning that His plans are far greater than anything I could imagine. I daily need to remind myself of this truth and submit to His leadership because He is good.
- His heart for the poor and drug-addicted is greater than I realized.
The store I manage is surrounded by neighbors known for smoking methamphetamine. It’s a real problem that is wrecking the lives of people I serve on a day-to-day basis. On Thursday, there were six police officers on our lot and a K-9 unit searching a vehicle for drugs. The crazy thing is, customers didn’t bat an eye. It’s a normal day in the neighborhood. As I get to know these people by name and learn about their lives and stories, I begin to see the image of God in them. They were perfectly created in God’s image yet have succumbed to the power and presence of sin. The saddest part is, I don’t think any of these people realize the destructive path they’re on, and in many cases, that don’t care to get off it.
These people are not much different than you and me. Their biggest hang-up seems to be misdirected desires. They long for comfort, joy, and significance, as most of us do. They seek a savior but seem perpetually distracted from the true Savior because of their enslavement to sin.
I’m beginning to love these people. My heart hurts for them daily. God is looking for such people. He has the Father’s heart for them and longs to bring them into His kingdom. The more I get to know them, the more I realize they are not drug addicts who need to be avoided, but rather, image-bearers who need to be embraced.
- He has placed me here on purpose.
My role at the store is not an accident. The company I work for owns and operates over 30 gas stations by the same name, several restaurants, and a fast-food chain. When I came on with the company, I was a floating manager, meaning I would work at any given store during the week, depending on their need. When I once again began to hear the call to plant a church, I felt the Lord calling our family to the geographic location of the gas station I’m currently managing. I didn’t share this inkling with anyone at my company. However, several months back, when the desire to reach that neighborhood was strong, my boss called me to say he wanted me to plant at my current store for the foreseeable future. Wow! There are dozens of stores he could have chosen, but this one, in this neighborhood, is the one I’m at. I don’t believe this is a coincidence. God has sovereignly placed me here on purpose.
- He is asking me to be a pastor where I am.
I may never plant a church. I may never work in full-time church ministry. I may never have a “platform” within a Christian organization. But I believe God has called me to be a pastor at the gas station.
You can likely imagine the heartache and pain I see on a day-to-day basis. After all, I live in the same broken world as you. In this particular neighborhood, it’s something every day. If I’m not trying to persuade a meth addict to clean up his life and return to his family, I’m dealing with young employees who are facing the death of their young friends. Oh, please, Jesus, let me represent you well! These people need you, Lord. I don’t want to waste the opportunity to be His hands and feet. I don’t want to miss the chance to love people well. I’m not simply the manager at a gas station. I’m the neighborhood pastor.
- His grace is sufficient for each day.
Praise God that His grace is sufficient for each day. I’m so far from perfect that it’s laughable. Thankfully, God is not after perfection. He’s after my heart. He’s after my allegiance.
Paul was an extraordinary man. His influence on the early church is unmatchable. He is either directly or indirectly responsible for most of our New Testament. He stewarded great gifts and was used mightily by the Holy Spirit; however, rather than bragging and acting like an elite Christian, he shared this bit of insight to his friends in Corinth:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV).
Paul realized that his effectiveness in ministry had nothing to do with His abilities or gifts. The real power came through weakness. God gets the glory when we lay ours down. His grace is sufficient for each day because His power is made perfect in my weakness.
I’m learning all these things and so much more. I’d love to challenge Christians who have similar desires for ministry but can’t find their fit. My challenge is this: let God use you where you are. He has sovereignly placed you there. His plan for your life is far greater than anything you can imagine. It may be messy. It probably won’t give you a platform or build your brand. But God will be glorified.