by, Antonio Cerda
Being a pastor, and having been raised by a family of pastors (parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents), I never wanted to become one.
The expectations from people are high, the heritage is almost mandatory and the last name weights too much. Especially when at age 13 I found out that God wanted me to serve him like this, and as a young boy, I had nothing but dreams and big aspirations, which I thought I would never get to accomplish because the Lord had another plan for me.
I must say that I struggled with the idea of being stuck in a church, unable to work, unable to travel and unable to do anything I wanted to do.
So I continued to live my life, studying, working and trying to run away from the responsibilities of my ministry. I kept helping my parents with the church, serving at anything they asked me to do, supporting their projects. But I had a project of my own.
As a part of my plan, when I got into college at age 22, I moved out from my parents house to live with some friends. I was eager for independence, I wanted to live my own life and go wherever I wanted to go and dedicate my time to study, my career, and hopefully I could get out of the country. I wanted to be someplace else, doing something else, I wanted to decide for myself who I was supposed to be instead of having others deciding my own life for me.
I ran and ran and I tried to hide behind so many things and so many people, I must confess I got a little lost on the way. Sometimes, while doing some things, I totally forgot about God.
However, two years later, in the middle of my career, in the middle of my plans, my dad’s diabetes became worse and he had to be hospitalized. I was overwhelmed by the whole situation, I even thought about quitting college because I thought: what’s the point of studying if I’m gonna have to take care of a church for life? I had almost decided to do so when on Saturday afternoon while I was taking care of my dad at the hospital, I finally had the courage to talk to him about how I felt.
He asked me, “You don’t want to be a pastor, do you?” And I said, “No.” Then I started to explain to him how I felt between tears and sobs. He listened to me very carefully and when I was done, he said: please don’t quit school. Your ministry doesn’t have to be like mine, It can’t be like mine. You see, God doesn’t want to take away your dreams, why give them to you and then take them away? Remember the succession of David and Solomon? And I said: yes I do. He said: I am David, I have fought my whole life, I have struggled and battled and conquered and I have gotten tired, I’ve been saving all the goods you’re going to need in your quest. Solomon was different, his destiny was to build, to administrate, to be wise and to make a difference in the world…you’re Solomon. So don’t worry, God knows what you want, he has everything under control.
It was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. That same night my dad got into surgery, then, due to complications after the surgery, he got into a coma and exactly a week after that, he died. I never spoke to him again after that night.
I gathered all the courage I had and I took responsibility of my ministry at age 24, in the middle of my career and with a part time job to help me pay for it. The first Sunday I preached at the church, right before I got up to the platform, I said to God in my mind: just don’t forget about my dreams.
During the following 2 years, splitting myself into four (college, work, church and girlfriend), I finally finished my career, it was 2010 and I was 26 years old. The first reaction of the people from the church and even my family was: great! Now you’re going to be able to dedicate only to the ministry…but in my heart, a seed was planted by God himself, something I held dear strongly: there must be a way to merge my talents and profession with my ministry, because I don’t want to quit my dreams.
Later that year I got married to a wonderful woman who shared this vision with me, she’s also a professional, in love with her career and a heart filled with passion to serve God. We kept working and pastoring the church, with all kind of comments and certain pressure from the people about our way to fulfill our ministry. I was driven to spend hours studying the life and ministries of all great men and women of God in the Bible and i found out that they all had talents, passions, dreams, gifts, professions and jobs that God used to fulfill His purpose through their lives: Moses, Joshua, Joseph the dreamer, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Paul…my dearest Paul!
I was thrilled about the way Paul (being a highly educated man) was able to use his profession to support himself, his ministry and the ministry of his collaborators.
In our hearts an ideal started to become a certainty: there is no such thing as secular and spiritual, everything is spiritual, and as sons of God, we shouldn’t separate our time to serve God at church from the rest of our activities, because we must serve Him with everything we are…and Colossians 3:17 and 3:23,24 became our daily bread. Some people of the church (the ones we trust the most) have embraced this certainty, but some others haven’t.
At some point, after always having to explain and defend our position, I started to feel a little frustrated and started to wonder: are we really crazy? Are we wrong? Are we that far from what’s right? But God had His answer ready for me. A couple of days after having asked all these questions, after the Sunday service, I was approached by a young man that was invited by a young couple we care about very deeply. After a little chat, we realized that we knew each other from our childhood, 20 years earlier, and it turns out that his mother was my teacher and she taught me to speak English since I was 11 years old. His name is Carlos, I don’t know how but we started to talk about our ministries and our dreams. I don’t know what was happening with him, but my heart started to beat very hard because we instantly connected in the Spirit.
Then he started to talk to me about something called Tentmaking, and then I asked: does this have something to do with the apostle Paul?…because if it does, I‘m interested. After he explained a little about it, he invited me to a conference in Mexico City. I definitely had to go.
Being at the conference, listening to total strangers from another part of the world, talking about the exact same things I believed in, really impressed me. The first thought that crossed my mind was: I’m not alone, we’re not alone. I felt how God was telling me through them: you’re not the only one who’s crazy, you’re not wrong…i wasn’t wrong about you…For two days, God was pouring down experiences, examples, strategies and opportunities to put my profession to the service of the Lord and to merge my talents and career with my ministry.
I don’t think that Ari Rocklin, Phill Sandahl and Christian Abbott know what God did with me through their lives…after all these years, for the first time I have a glimpse of the potential of my ministry and my wife’s ministry. It was like a seal had been put on me, like I was given an identity, a name, and a renewed intention to achieve my purpose in God.
I’m 31 years old, I’m a pastor, I’m a professional starting my own business, and I’m a tentmaker…