Committing ‘Career Suicide’ to Plant a Church

When you were in your twenties what did you hope your life would amount to? A flash apartment in the capital? Posh car? Award winning career? I did. But then, at the age of 20, I became a Christian and a lot of that changed.

I still wanted all those things but something new began to grow in me, a nagging feeling that there was something greater to invest my life in than just career; money; stuff.

Beginning to believe there was a God and an after life started to change me. What I did with my life no longer just mattered to me and a handful of my closest friends and family; now, it mattered to God. The same God that the bible says created the heavens and earth; flung stars into space and created mankind in his image, for the purpose of reflecting himself to the world. This God passionately cared for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the prostitute and the outcast.

The God I was learning about in my early years as a Christian unnerved me. As I read the bible I saw glimpses of a bigger plan for human beings. His word even said he had a plan for me and my life (Jer 29:11). I was no longer the main character in my life story.

At the age of 21 I found myself at a cross-roads. I was at Art School studying Graphic Design. Do I follow the crowd to London? Should I take the path my tutors and parents expected of me? If I wanted to work as a credible designer, (and I wanted it so bad; it had been a personal dream (ok, idol) for a number of years) I knew I had to move to London. Since the industry was there, it was generally acknowledged; trying to start out anywhere else was ‘career suicide’.

Yet, God was up to something in my heart… Another, less clear, narrower path was beginning to open up.

I’d been dating a godly young man for a year or so; long-distance, whilst I was away at University. He was currently living in the city of Hull in the UK. He was something of a revolutionary (in my eyes at least). He purposefully lived on a tough (and I mean really tough) council estate in order to live out the gospel there. He dreamt of planting a church one day. A church that shunned the typical ‘white, middle-class’ label and welcomed in the poor and underprivileged that were in far greater abundance in that city.

I was smitten. We were talking of getting married. But I knew his dreams, clearly given to him by God and inextricably linked to the city he lived in; would not/could not be allowed to die.

I had a choice to make.

Seeking God
Did I follow my dream; a dream I was becoming more and more unsettled by; when I compared it against God’s heart for people and serving the poor? Or did I move to an underprivileged city to marry a man whose heart was to plant a church with a difference? It would mean letting my dreams die. I would be risking it all, or so I believed at the time.

I’ve honestly never prayed so hard for anything in my life. I asked God to make his plan for my life clear. I asked him not to let me waste my life. I gave him my fears and I trusted he knew my hearts desires as I sought his kingdom first in my life (Psalm 37:4, Matt 6:33).

And after three months he answered me.

In a dream.

I know, a bit weird right?

Yes; it could have been the out-working of my brain processing the decisions I was facing; it could have been too much cheese the night before. And yet, the unusually vivid and symbolic nature of the dream impressed on me so deeply; I actually sat bolt upright in bed, as the significance of the dream woke me up.

In that dream I saw the young man I have since married. He and I were surrounded by many, many children, not only our own birth children but also the spiritual children we now lead and  nurture in the church we helped plant 8 years ago. A church with a heart for the poor; that continues to grow and thrive under God’s blessing. In that dream, every single person had their faces painted like tigers. For anyone familiar with the city of Hull, our football team is called ‘The Tigers’ and is a well-known icon associated with the city of Hull.

God, not only, confirmed that I should get married to that young man, but that I should give myself to building his church and where that church would be. God spoke clearly and I have never doubted the choices I’ve made, have been following his path for my life.

The cost
Despite having worked as a Graphic Designer in the city of Hull, I have not had, nor will I ever have, the sort of career I always dreamed of. I encountered much opposition as I tried to explain, in vain, to my tutors, friends and family that I was not just “throwing it all away” to get married. Sometimes we have to let go of our own plans and trust that Jesus’ are better for us and more fulfilling. He truly knows us better than we know ourselves.

If you are facing a cross-roads; if you wonder whether following Jesus and surrendering your agenda to follow after his, is worth the cost it entails? All I can give you is; a wholehearted YES.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
(Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV)

What about you? What cross-roads have you faced in your life? What have you had to lay down? What dreams have you had to let die in your own life to follow after God’s plan for you? I’d love to hear from you.

If you don’t have time to comment below, please click the heart if you enjoyed the post. It’s helpful to know there are people reading as I’m pouring my heart out! Hehe 🙂

Abi held a funeral for her design career after birthing two churches and three children. She now helps lead a local church alongside her husband John and a team of great people, as well as working for her larger network of churches as their Communications Manager. Life is full but fun.


  • Abigail Flavell

    Thank you for your reply learning2float. I definitely know the pain of loss you describe. I grieved for my ‘lost career’ for a long time, it had become an idol and learning to trust Jesus had a better plan for me was a difficult process. It has been hard but I know I live a more satisfied and meaningful life than i would have done. It’s interesting you work for the charity sector, you have a chance to do some real good. Keep believing what you are doing matters to Jesus if he has put you there. Have you listened to ‘The Cost’ by Rend Collective? Amazing song you might like if you feel anything like me! Great line that says ‘I do not need safety, as much as I need you.’ I look forward to reading your blog in return x

  • learning2float

    God asked me to leave my career as a dietitian on 2 separate occaisions, along with closing the doors to jobs (98 application and 27 interviews across the UK), he provided me with the best manager I could imagine and a job I was good at and that doesn’t feel like work. I get paid to be nice to people. I find it really hard that I left my career, and now don’t have a profession or a clear career path. Working in the charities sector, there is also job insecurity due to short term funding and none of the safety nets I had in the NHS. I found your post so helpful…I’ve never realised how I made my career into an idol…and I hope you can tell me that obeying God is worth it, and the sense of loss will reduce.

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