Why I Quit Renewing My Ministerial Credentials

29 Dec

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The reason why I didn’t renew my ministerial credentials after they expired in 1983 was because I came to the realization that the reason why I decided to become a minister in 1974 could only be fulfilled by leaving that existing model of the ministry. The reason why I entered the ministry was to help people and tell them about the exciting new life I found in Jesus, but by 1980 that enthusiasm and excitement had been replaced by fear. Fear of being a failure as a minister and having to go back and live the life of a working class family man. By the time that the 1980s began, I realized that I had the raw information of 10 years of study and investigation swimming around in my head and I would be a fraud if I stood behind a pulpit in any church claiming that I understood it all and how it integrated with and related to life. I needed time to ruminate on all this information.

I needed to go out into the world and begin putting my theology to the test by putting myself in a position where I had to completely depend on God for everything. I once taught in a Bible study that we must all be willing to stand naked in the wilderness, with no possessions or friends, looking to Jesus as the source of everything. So I left the full time paid ministry and began wandering through my own wilderness as I moved my family cross country, seven times in six years, racking up over ten thousand miles. One time I even had to hitchhike 900 miles with only a suitcase and $10 in my pocket, hoping that a friend in Los Angeles would let me sleep at his house until I found a job and was able to move my family.

By 1984 I came to the realization that I was not politically suited to try and climb the ladder of pastoral success nor was I experientially ready to teach anyone about how to raise their kids and live their lives, since I was in the middle of learning that myself. Giving up the possibility of ever becoming a full time minister in a church again was hard to do, but if God had wanted me to continue to do it, I gave Him every opportunity to make it happen, even afterwards, but He never did. Once I gave up, I began to live my life as the salt that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount. I re-entered the work force to support my family by first becoming a cook, then an automotive cleaning agent salesman, until I finally ended up getting re-instated to the U. S. Postal Service, where I had worked before becoming a minister.

I hated every minute of having to do jobs that I did not want to do instead of the ministry that I trained for and actually got paid to do for four years. By 1986 we ended up in Salem, Oregon where I transferred my job and worked for the U. S. Postal Service until I retired in 2004, at the age of 56. Along the way I followed my bliss in two areas of my life, first, by creating a family with my wife, life partner, and lover, Kathy. Second, I passionately used photography as a tool to record everything that was important to me along the way.

Because of following my bliss, by the early 1990s I had 7 children and was getting invited to photograph and publish images of some of the most historic music artists performing at the turn of the millennium. At the same time I began to publish articles that I wrote and began to conduct interviews for the Wittenburg Door, the magazine that became my primary teacher of spiritual things after I exhausted the Foursquare denomination’s ability to provide needed information. I was able to get press credentials, free tickets, and even back stage passes on occasion to everyone from the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones to Green Day and Rage Against the Machine. God had opened doors for me that I never asked to enter because I was too timid to try. I learned that God really does lead us if we choose to follow.

As I look back over my life I can see the times that God brought people into my life that I didn’t recognize at that time as being his messengers. There were people who would appear throughout my life to answer my questions, show me direction and act as my guide for a season. When they did appear it was as natural as anything that happened spontaneously, but at the same time it was a completely synchronistic coincidental event. All that was required on my part was to accept the information and invitations that these spiritual emissaries presented me with.

By the turn of the millennium in the 21st century my photography, journalism, and writing landed me writing contracts for encyclopedias, until I finally wrote and published my own two-volume history of contemporary Christian music. Even though I achieved a level of success as a photographer, journalist, and writer, I didn’t consistently make enough money to support myself and my family, so I continued to have a regular job of some kind. After I retired from the U. S. Postal Service and while I wrote encyclopedia articles and my two-volume book, β€œJesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music” I began to drive a cab three nights a week.

I found that my cab driving was not an ordinary job, but more of a ministry, because it involved helping people from all walks of life in every area of possibility. I was getting paid to do it, but then so do most ministers. As a taxi driver you weren’t expected to be a minister, it was just the job that you performed by driving the elderly, infirmed, drunk, depraved, insane, and other ordinary everyday people. Sometimes you could make a difference in someone’s life and other times you might get ripped off, insulted, or assaulted, but whatever the outcome it was all part of the job. It was the gospel of action rather than a gospel of words spoken from a pulpit. Instead of admonishing people to go out into the world and act as salt, light, yeast, and whatever other metaphors could be used to designate interaction with humanity, I was doing it myself by example. Wow!

Even though I didn’t renew my ministerial credentials, I didn’t abandon theological thought, but continued to study it and discuss it with anyone that was interested. Over the years I talked to thousands of people about every subject imaginable and heard more perspectives than I thought possible. I spent a lifetime ruminating on all the information that I absorbed while preparing for and being in the ministry. I talked to others all the time about my conclusions, which would sometimes bring reactions. Now I understand the ministry better than I did when I was in it, and I realize that I never left it.

I reconsidered my idea of what ministry is, after I transcended the limits of the man-made institution called the church. The word β€œministry” is translated into English from Greek and Latin as the word servant, service, slave, and other related meanings. From a firstΒ century Jesus perspective, today’s clergy are servants of an elitist social entity like the Pharisees and Saducees were two thousand years ago. The established religious institution that Jesus railed against in his time never stopped existing. They just changed names and mythological stories.Β  Over the past two millennia, individuals have risen up from every generation to become the Jesus of their age to their own generation, railing against the shallow superficiality of the religious institutions.

At this time I’m at the end of my life and I’ve lived long enough to experience enough reality to test most of the theology that I learned in Bible college, university, and through my own investigations. I was 33 when I first spun my cocoon and the metamorphosis began in 1980. A decade later as the 1990s began, I saw the first ray of light seep into my chrysalis, and by 1997 I completed my metamorphosis and was born again, again, again, again, again, again, again……….



One Response to “Why I Quit Renewing My Ministerial Credentials”

  1. Dr. Ramon G. Rivera April 19, 2014 at 10:01 AM #


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