Recently, one pastor blogger type offered a post on the difficulties of ministry. Heck, I even ‘shared it’ on FB. Today, my Abbott offered a link to another version of this sort of ‘self-exposure.’ It was a nice balance. It was written by Rev. Katherine Willis Pershey. You can read it here.

I read her reflection and liked what I read. I cannot say however that her experience is mine…

While I relate to both the first and second ‘list’ mine would be different. If I was to list ten things I wanted people to know about ministry, and me, it would go something like this:

1. I am blessed to do this work. Being a Pastor is a real privilege. We are allowed to travel along with people through the most joyous and sorrowful parts of their life. Some people use the word mundane to describe what day to day life is reduced to. I don’t really get much of that. Mundane periods somehow seem to compete with what can be described as sacred. In fact, all of life is sacred and a pastor’s life is full of opportunities to notice…not only on those happy days when it is easier to be aware of God’s beneficence, but also on those difficult days when it is tempting to be misguided into thinking that God is absent. By vocation and advocation, I get to notice, and in noticing so serve others as a reminder of God’s presence.

2. I did not choose to be a pastor. Will Willimon, while dean of the Chapel at Duke, had a senior asked to meet with him. They talked as they walked together across campus. The woman said, ‘I want to go to seminary.’ Willimon asked (in his usual ascerbic fashion) “why would you want to do that?” Student: “I want to help people.” Willimon replied “have you met any of these people?” Only a crazy person would go to the vocational counselor, take the inventory, speak to the advisor, and go off to seminary. My own pastor gave me the best advice I have ever received on this subject, “don’t do it unless you cannot help yourself.” He said this to me to help me understand some things; not that ministry is hard, because it is hard like other careers are hard, but because it requires a sense of call. That is that ministry is something God is calling you to do. You can try and avoid it and run off to Tarshish. You can be as mad as you want, even if things don’t go the way you want in Nineveh. But without this sense of call, and it being confirmed in your community, it simply doesn’t make any sense. I have tried to do other things, God nagged me back into this.

3. I am an introvert at heart. I have learned, over the years, to function as a public – large group – person. I have a colleague who’s extroverted nature leaves her ‘Jazzed up’ after Sunday morning responsibilities. I, on the other hand, feel like I need to go for a walk down a trail kicking a stone. Or take a nap. I have discovered that at my best, I oscillate between time in the study and prayer and those more public responsibilities. If I seem reserved, it doesn’t mean I am mad at you or anyone else. It could simply be that the gas in my tank is getting low.

4. I am continually amazed that so many people devote so much of their time and treasure to this ministry we share. It is often said that the church does not take hostages, we kill ’em. The flip side is that there are a few painful folk who use the church environment to work out their own demons of guilt or frustration. There are countless others who balance their life between career, family, and being a faithful disciple, to the benefit of the church, their employer, and their family. I am blessed to be around these folks and they serve as faithful guides to me when they tell me ‘no’ in timely and appropriate ways.

5. I am not stupid. There was a time when pastors where one of the top two or three most highly educated people in the community. Now, it is not so. Still, pastors worth their salt know something about finances, organizational development, systems theory, psychology; not to mention homiletics, liturgy, theology, biblical interpretation, and pastoral care. Some of us, many actually, finally heeded God’s call after being prepared for and working in other disciplines. Many of us do not dominate the process of church work because we believe it is our role to allow the Gifts of others to be in service, encouraging the exercise of them above our own. Not having to be the authority or expert is a personal quality I cherish. Holding my tongue is another. Nobody likes a smart-aleck.

6. I am a normal Guy. The other day I happened to meet a member of a congregation I served some time back. He said, “I miss you…you are a man.” I replied, “last time I checked, yes…” He said, “no, what I mean is that we could talk about deer hunting or the football game.” I took this as a compliment. Still, I worry. I worry because what I try to do is what (I pray) others do…be the person God created them to be and at the same time point toward God in this very normal life. There are those who want to put the pastor up on a pedestal. I suppose there may be valid reasons to allow this ascension from time to time. To remain there leads (for me) to disappointment when it is discovered that I am a normal guy. When we were expecting a child in our first parish, one ‘church lady’ responded to our announcement saying “how did that happen?” I told her, “the normal way.” The daughter of one of my predecessors, a pastor of a generation before me, told me her dad felt it necessary to wear a shirt and tie while mowing the lawn. True story. I am fortunate that most people know me, and love me, for who I am.

7. I do have great flexibility in my schedule, and I appreciate that. The up side is that if I am attentive to what experts call ‘self-care’ I schedule a day off a week. A whole day off. This doesn’t always happen. Someone asks, can we meet Monday night? Usually, even though I try to take Mondays off, I meet with them. The office staff some times says TGIF. I almost never say that. So when my wife and I get to enjoy a Friday night like ‘normal’ people it is cherished. Also, I am not a good date on Saturday night. Fortunately, puttering around the house, taking my bird-dogs for a run, all by myself, is fine with me. My colleague in ministry, our office manager, reminds me to schedule down time. I am thankful for that permission giving. My predecessor reminds me to read and study. My associate says that “At your best, you worship God with your mind, so do it.” I am lucky to have some folks around who remind me that this flexibility is not only an opportunity to accomplish more but as Marva Dawn says of worship, can provide a ‘Royal‘ waste of time.

8. I run interference for my wife and children. I do not know how I would do this without my wife, a person of faith who is a blessing to me and to the church where he participates in a variety of ways. Still, don’t ask me if she will do this or that, ask her. And, she might not say yes. This ain’t a package deal.

9. For me, faithfulness means a certain reverence for the tradition, attention to scripture, and social action…just like Jesus. This reveals itself in my participation in a religious order, my sticking with the lectionary scripture, and my support of social action others would describe as liberal. Some see me in a collar and think: strict orthodoxy. The bible study at church doesn’t know which way i am going, right or left. For those of you who read the bible, I find myself returning to St. Luke, because there Luke’s Jesu demonstrates God’s proclivity for the poor, the marginalized, those social outcasts. This means doing something about injustice. So some think I am a ‘bleeding heart liberal.’ I think these things go together without a harsh literalism or turning tradition to traditionalism.

10. Do you remember me saying i have tried to not be a pastor? One reason is that i just never felt like i am the ‘right kind of person.’ So I am thankful. Being a pastor reminds me, God is good. God is generous. And if I really am doing what God wants me to do, God is gracious.

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