Reading a wonderful series off a pastor friends blog made me do some thinking about where I’ve come from in regards to now being a young pastor. When I was growing up in the church I had the chance to watch, listen, and to serve with several church leaders and pastors within the Presbyterian church. Many of these pastors and church leaders are now pastoring some of the largest and most evangelical congregations in our country.
Each week I heard the Word proclaimed in every arena of church from adult Sunday school classes, youth groups, and worship services that affirmed the saving grace of Christ. I watched pastors I admire and served with who had to make tough decisions and to work at ministering and equipping those who were broken hearted and in need of God’s grace to be messengers of hope. I watched pastors model for me and so many others what it meant to truly worship the Lord. I listened to leaders who were blessed with huge amounts of wisdom and leadership ability when it came to what it meant to truly be a shepherd of shepherds. What I didn’t have an opportunity to see was what these folks did behind the scenes while I was in the trenches serving as a youth worker. In some ways I’m glad I didn’t see what I’m seeing and hearing in the larger church today as a pastor.
As a first year pastor I am learning for the first time what these pastors and leaders were doing while I was off at youth camps, running youth groups, mission trips, and playing “chubby bunny and singing some youth group traditional hymn like “King Jesus is All or “Big House” for the millionth time (late 80’s and early 90’s of course, I think playing chubby bunny is illegal now). I am learning that many of these pastors were themselves learning how to navigate through church politics. Learning how to maintain budgets. Learning how to avoid the need to please church leaders and the need to please the church. I am learning that many of these pastors were learning how to console folks who were going through some of the worst trials of life. They were learning how to care for someone who was facing death? How to deal with the loss of a loved one? How to counsel someone who was going through a tough divorce? Things I am now dealing with in my first call.
If I’m hearing my pastor friend correctly and from what I’ve learned from these pastors is that it is not about me. I am not the guy in charge. Instead I am one who has been called by God to be a leader of leaders. A servant leader. One who has been called by God from within the midst of the brokenhearted. I had a seminary professor who once asked the question,” what would the church look like if the pastor actually got up from the middle of the congregation, to preach the Word for the morning instead of rising from a chair to stand in the pulpit?”
There is a part of me that still enjoys being the youth worker. The one who gets to live out and model Jesus. The one who gets to practice the kind of ministry Jesus modeled. One that was relational and who modeled what it meant to be in the trenches. There is a part of me though who is thrilled that I get to now work with the larger church even in all its pain and brokenness. To put into practice what was handed down to me. A Gospel that is changing, can change, has changed, and will change lives.
Thank God I’m not the head and thank God I get to walk alongside those who are also called to truly be imitators of God’s love. Thank God that the church is about the people. Not merely four walls, but the body of Christ. Read my pastor friends blog next week as he begins to deal with the question what part of the body of Christ is the pastor? Just some thoughts. Still learning. Still watching. Still listening.