Q & R: Ministry (one way), or Ministry (another way)?

Here’s the Q:

Several years back, your book Everything Must Change, along with my own beginning to question and re-examine, started my current chapter. At the time I was a student at a Southern Baptist seminary but beginning to see some things I was taught unraveling. I have made some changes and actually am currently working in a mainline church that is a much better fit for where I am in my thinking and theology; but I want to ask your advice.
As cycles go, I’m back to feeling a bit like Pastor Dan. I want the freedom to be intellectually and spiritually honest as I learn; which one in ministry sadly doesn’t always have. I also see the merit in serving the church and using my gifts; but doing something vocationally outside of the church. I wonder if I could actually do MORE with my life that way, not less. (such as teaching in public school and volunteering with the Church). All my life I have worked toward ministry, so its scary to think of change, but at the same time I would still be a minster no matter what my job.
Any wisdom? I know you hear from countless people, but I’ve considered you truly a mentor, and you have been a HUGE part of my spiritual journey.

Here’s the R: First, I think you’re so wise to realize that ministry is for everyone – those who are serving the church as a career and those who are serving as the church in the world. Second, having done ministry in both venues, I think you’re right to say that there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Third, I think you’re wise to realize that there are many vocational chapters in a typical life.
Nobody at a distance like me could know enough about your situation to offer counsel – which is a good reason to create a “clearness committee” with a group of trusted friends and local mentors. But let me suggest a possible “middle path.” If you are in paid ministry now, I’m going to guess you’re working more than a forty hour week. Let’s say you’re working fifty. What would happen if you worked an honest and wholehearted forty hours “on the clock” for the church, and then reinvested that additional ten hours in some form of unpaid, external ministry? Or, conversely, you might take a “sabbatical” from paid ministry for a while and get a different kind of job, as you suggest … but if you do, maybe start an experimental faith community of some sort. (My next book will offer special resources for groups like this.)
Whatever you do, don’t burn bridges because later chapters often circle back to earlier territory. Keep learning, keep growing, and keep “in the stream.”