Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Adding to my resume

This weekend I add to my resume.  My pastoral resume, I should say.  Since graduating from seminary, I've had the opportunity to perform many parts of a pastor's calling, particularly the preaching ones.  I dare not suggest, however, that the call to preach is what a pastor's job is made of, though, generally (at least for those I know) it's how the called one received or interpreted that initial call.  Those pastors I know felt a strong calling to 'preach the word, in season and out', then, in their ministry as church pastors, find ways to do the other tasks necessary for the church to run, so that they can have the privilege of their calling--to preach. And I suppose most people don't instinctively see church ministry as their first option when God calls/gifts them with administration and leadership, but from where I've sat (on church elder boards and committees), such gifts are of primary importance to a pastor's job, at least in the North American church as it's now constructed, which begs the question of why our churches are structured as they are, so far from what God had in mind when He set them up in the New Testament, but that's a discussion left to better minds than mine.

I remember having a conversation with Eugene Peterson over lunch one summer afternoon with our closest friend, a pastor.  JM asked EHP how he managed to to stay true to his calling when all these jobs and responsibilities of the pastorate got in the way of that calling.  EHP told us that early in his pastorate he'd struggled with this very thing, but finally went to his elders and said, "You have to take on the administration of this church.  I can't do it.  It's not my calling and I'm not good at it."  Fortunately, his elders stepped up and took over, leaving EHP to do what God had called him to do--to study, preach and teach the word.  To pastor his flock.  EHP is the most pastoral man I've ever known, with a deep ability to be present in a conversation, deeply quiet with someone.  I can imagine how that church flourished because he was allowed to be himself, not stuck doing what he was ill-equipped to do.

One of the reasons I have always known pastoral ministry wasn't a suit I could wear was the peripheral things, the non-pastoral tasks expected of a pastor.  As an elder, I was often so overwhelmed by the business of church I could hardly keep my mind on them. Budgets and finances made my eyes glaze over.  I could hardly read those ubiquitous spread sheets some folks could hardly wait to get their hands on.  My brain just doesn't work that way.  And I know--trust me, I KNOW--I made people impatient and even irritated by my inabilities in those areas, as well as my insistance on praying every second moment (at least from their points of view).

Beve and I have often 'discussed' this issue, because he feels--rightly so--that every job has parts of it that a person is less inclined toward.  But we don't get to pick and choose.  We do the less enjoyable parts so that we can do the parts we love.  However, I maintain that one must be at least ABLE to do those difficult parts, and that there should be a proportional balance.  I don't see that this is very often the case in pastoral ministry, at least in churches with a lone pastor.  Too much is expected of that one person. He or she is expected to be EVERYTHING.  Is this right? Is this what God intended?  Of course not.  He intended pastors to pastor, and others to administrate.  It's right there in the Word of God.  In Acts, in Romans, in 1 Corinthians.  The New Testament is full of God's ordering of His church.  We would do well to take our model from it, rather than from business.

Ok, so that's my rant for the day.  However, in an obvious correllary, I want to acknowledge those in my life--JM, JT, TL, NS--who are or have been pastors and have had to do this Herculean job.  And, from where I sit in the cheap seats, have done it very well.  I have been blessed in many and varied ways by not just their preaching but the large range of jobs they do to take care of their flock.  God alone knows how wide that range is.

All that said, this weekend, I will have the privilege of performing one more of the offices of pastor.  I've preached numerous times, led several retreats, served communion, and even preached at my own brother's (two) memorial service (s).  But I've never officiated at a wedding.  Until this weekend, when I will be the "Marrying C" (so to speak), for SK's best friend and her fiance.  SK has been friends with A since they were spindly 14-year-olds, sharing a music stand in the viola section of the freshman orchestra.  They had (and still do) the same quirky sense of humor, and ability to remember movie lines, and, after going to see, "Finding Nemo",  we spent the next year listening to them quoting Nemo to each other.  SK still has a stuffed turtle on her bed A gave her that year.  That same year, A began dating her husband-to-be-on-Saturday, J. I look forward to being with them Friday and Saturday.  It's a serious thing we do when we stand up together and say those vows.  Serious, yes, but also a cause for celebration. And if I know God (and I do a little, though not nearly as well as I want to), He's always up for a celebration.


Elle said...

Can I reserve you for my wedding already? I have a few minor details I have to work on before this can happen, but it'd be an honor. (I'm sure my husband will agree.)

jeskmom said...

I'd be proud to marry, marry you and your prince...well, you know what I mean. And he dang well better agree.