Living my calling

I’m a pastor, and have been for the better part of twenty years. I find this to be rather unbelievable. Not only have I been around long enough for the calendar to turn twenty years, I’ve somehow managed to remain functional in a vocation which tends to chew people up and spit them out. I’ve had my fair share of frustrations 1 over the years, but I’m still plugging away in a job which is often thankless and almost always misunderstood 2. And, in the midst of a pandemic when I’m watching pastors struggle with both their call and their interpersonal relationships, with both their congregation and denomination, I find myself wondering how I’ve lasted. I think I’ve come up with a couple of thoughts worth sharing.

First, I’ve never been married to a particular methodology. I know a lot of churches, including Central, who have been so wedded to a particular methodology of ministry that they wind up pouring more and more and more and more energy into it long after it’s ceased being beneficial. I hear a lot of church folk, pastors included, say things like, “If only people would…” Whenever I hear that my instinct is to change the dial and ask question, “But, why aren’t people?” Since I’ve never been married to a particular methodology I’ve found it invigorating when the church needs to re-contextualize itself for ministry. And I love helping people embrace their own journeys as they embrace this need.

Second, and related, I’ve enjoyed finding my own way to do “old things.” I’m rather old-school when it comes to worship 3, but for everything else I enjoy being creative. Bible studies, as most people think of them, bore me. Prayer circles terrify me 4. And I think church meetings should be more family gatherings than business negotiations 5. So I write my own studies for Central to pursue which utilize creative hooks, encourage contemplative prayer over extemporaneous evocations, and once submitted my annual report in the form of a comic strip. Each time I try to navigate off the beaten path I have to both learn new things and teach them to others, this keeps my brain fresh and ministry enjoyable 6.

Third, I love walking with other pastors as they pursue their own journeys. Maybe sometimes I can offer advice or make introductions which help people find new joy, but for the most part I just like to be present for folks and poke their brains a bit while they figure things out. Pastor’s journeys are all distinct, and how those journeys intersect with the congregations they shepherd fascinates me. I’ve had a number of pastors take this role for me over my life, and taking that role up myself is something I feel a decent pastor 7 needs to do. Seeing growth and lightbulbs go off in other pastors is a particular joy, and when I know I’ve had a small part to play in that growth I am humbled.

Fourth, I’ve grown comfortable being a “public figure.” When it comes to “being known” I have an odd psychology 8. I don’t want to be in the spotlight as a person, it’s not where I’m comfortable. Being noticed just as me is something that freaks me out because I can get overwhelmed by people rather easily. But when I’m in a working group or involved in a project, I tend to migrate toward the center of things. And if I’m going to be in a meeting, I’d much rather be teaching/presenting than in the audience. So, if I’m in the spotlight as an instructor I’m fine, as long as people keep their distance afterward. But I live in a small town and so I’m not able to separate being known as a person and being recognized as a teacher 9. For a number of years in this town my instinct was to remain on the sidelines, out of a sense of mental self-preservation, but the need to integrate into the town made that more and more and more difficult. Had I not grown comfortable with being a “known entity” in the town 10, I probably would have flamed out as a pastor long ago. But the more I grew comfortable with being known, the more I’ve felt connected to both the church and the town. Palmrya is home, even if my heart still longs for PA, and I think folks recognize that.

I’ve been glad for the journey I’ve been on as a pastor. The people I’ve met, and the transformations I’ve witnessed have been rewarding. It’s not always been easy, and sometimes it’s been outright frustrating, but in the end this the journey I’m supposed to be on.

  1. Mostly outside Central, where I pastor now. At Central people have probably had more frustrations with me. And rightly so, I’m an idiot. 
  2. I do get annoyed when people assume what I care about is getting people’s money. 
  3. Except I don’t wear robes or a tie. I don’t wear a robe because I’d look like Hogwarts dropout, and I’m not sure why I need to choke myself just to come to worship–it seems silly to me. 
  4. Too much talking
  5. The irony is the “old way” a lot of churches do these things is, against the backdrop of history, novel
  6. For the most part. No one enjoys being surrounded by the brokenness of the world, but the joy I experience elsewhere grows the love I need to stay with people in the dark places. 
  7. Or, in this case, me. 
  8. I have an odd psychology all around, but but I’m just focusing on this one at the moment.. 
  9. I should clarify. The difference between me as a person and me as a teacher is one of distance, not personality. I try to be me no matter what I’m doing, but it takes me a good long while to process new relationships. I think this is an introvert thing, I think. 
  10. And, really, I’m still only “known” in particular circles. I’ll never be an extrovert, nor do I want to be one.