Thursday, January 26, 2012
I am approaching the three month mark for starting the call here as Associate Pastor for Family Development at First Pesbyterian Church of Plymouth. On Sunday I will finally be ordained after four years of working toward this goal in the Pesbyterian Church and eleven years after first sensing a call to full time ministry. I have to be honest that nothing feels different. I know the process I have been through and the journey God has taken me on has been significant and life changing but I don't feel any different. I still feel the same as when I first sensed a call. I know that before me lies a road of continual growth and learning. I know that God has called me to serve his church. I know that this world is broken and needs the reconciliation of Christ. I sense that despite my imperfections God will somehow use me for Kingdom purposes.
While I feel almost no different about my role in the church it has been astonishing to me how much the church has changed in its view of me. Though my passion and call have not wavered since I first felt it, before this call I was always treated as one who was not quite there. I remember being frustrated in my role as youth director in Santa Barbara because I always seemed to be to the last person to find out about spiritual needs within families that were a part of the ministry I was supposed to be caring for. It wasn't always the case but I wondered why I had to hear about things directly involving the ones I was called to serve through a secondary source. Since starting here the main thing I have been asked to do is show up. It is as though that my very presence is a ministry in and of itself. It may not seem this way to others who have observed my life and call in ministry but I have always felt like a background player serving in mostly unnoticed roles or in limited capacities. It has been a strange thing that my very presence is now recognized as ministry.
To be fair, this may be a contextual reality due to this particular Church's needs right now but I can't help reflecting on the teaching of one of my seminary professors. Dr. Purves teaches that our role in Pastoral Ministry is threefold. First, we bear witness to the work of Christ in the lives of our congregations, second, we help the people of God interpret the signs of Christ's working among them and third, we hold the people before Christ. It didn't strike me before that these things were all ministries of presence. If we are to bear witness to the work of Christ we must be both in the presence of the people and in the presence of Christ. If we are to help people interpret the things of Christ in their lives we need to be living life with them, alongside them. If we are to hold the people of God before Christ, knowing that he is the true mediator for his people, then we are to be in the presence of Christ.
The change that I have experienced in how others see me has been a result of a title. I don't feel any different but now because I have a title others feel different about me. This is not to knock the title. If you know me at all you know I hate titles that puff up. God is showing me that this title has little to do with me and much more to do with him. It is not because of me that the title brings this change but because of him. It is now that the church is truly acknowledging the call I have felt and known all along. I do not feel changed but I know I am not the same man who started this journey nearly eleven years ago. My call has not changed but God is bringing it to fruition in his perfect timing. I only hope that the ministry God has planned for me produces fruit in others and for the Kingdom. Amen.