If you asked my mother, she would tell you she’s known ministry was in my future for a long time. I guess it’s motherly intuition. She knows her son well and can sense where God is leading.
I think I remember asking about ministry for the first time when I was in second grade. Something along the lines of “hey Dad, think I’ll be a preacher?” He had to have laughed later at that question from a child.
This sense of divine obligation has taken many shapes and forms since those early childhood days. It’s a story written over a lifetime, not a moment or ultimatum.
When I was in high school, my sense of calling became more pronounced. My response was to try and create an image of how this might play out. My 18-year-old brain couldn’t do it, so I created ideas that were impersonal and impractical of fame and ministerial glory.
In my last year of collegiate studies, on Christmas break I received a book that changed my ministry paradigm. Eugene Peterson recorded his life as a pastor in a memoir titled The Pastor. It was the perfect combination of my favorites: memoir and ministry.
Over the course of three days, I journeyed through the seasons of ministry with a veteran. It was as if he were walking through his own personal museum, teaching me priceless lessons along the way.
For the sake of those in ministry preparation (or just for the refreshment of those in ministry), I want to share some quick lessons I learned from Eugene.
First, the life of the minister is not the life of an entertainer. Eugene believes the pastor’s job is best done in obscurity. This keeps ego in check and rids the pastor of vain motivations. To be called to ministry is to be called to a life on the fringes, hanging between the spiritual and the earthly…showing your people how to live with Christ in that tension.
Second, the formation of the pastor starts at birth and ends at death (or exit from the pastorate). God never stops growing the men He has called to shepherd. Like the flock, we must always be growing in Christ and into our roles as spiritual care-takers.
Third, the pastor is called to shepherd, not execute. What do I mean exactly? Pastors are no more CEOs than a professional athlete is an accountant. The call to lead is a call to care, guide, listen, cry, muse, coax, wed, and say goodbye. It’s carried out in relationships, not offices.
I could write many more, but I’ll close my list at three.
At this stage in my life, these are ideas that have yet to be put into practice. But, one day these will be my marching orders. For those responsible for the spiritual lives of others, I hope you’ll join me.