I’ve thought a lot about this all day. This idea that we pastors who’ve sensed God’s call to full-time ministry have some how entered the “big show?” Let me be clear that I’m not trying to say that we in the pastorate are better than those in the pews. I don’t want to be better. I had a professor in seminary talk about the preacher rising up from the pews to bring good news is where good news really should come from. His point being that the preacher is just like me. He or she deals with the same things I deal with. His thought also was that we’ve placed so much focus on the person sitting above us, in an elevated position on a Sunday morning, rising to the raised pulpit in the sky, that we’ve forgotten that there was a time in which the people of God would rise from the midst of community to proclaim God’s mission. This big show metaphor points me back to a time in my life as a youth where I got to watch some wonderful people in leadership positions. These folks were awesome in their presentation of the gospel. I looked up to them. I wanted to do what they were doing. I wanted to be part of a life changing experience that would impact the world for Christ and these folks were good at what they did and I myself was impacted or I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing in the church today.
I can even remember way back as a youth growing up in the church, attending church youth camps and I’d watch those putting on the big show and wondered what it would be like to be the one up front. I’d look at these folks with awe and thought they were some kind of “super” Christians. I thought that if I only could do what they were doing I’d be super Christian guy too. My first summer serving on staff at this same youth camp I attended as a kid and that I truly love with all of my heart, I saw a different side of the “super Christian.” I was kicked out of my box of “naiveté.” I was about 17 ½ years old and worked as a dishwasher all summer long at this camp. It was where I learned what it meant to really be in ministry. This is where it took place for me. 300-400 persons a week, three meals a day, 5-6 days per week, you do the math. That was a whole lot of dish washing.
I have to confess, I was so jealous of the folks up stairs and up front that there were days I wondered if I’d ever be doing what they were doing in ministry. Something happened though that first summer serving on staff at that camp. I realized that the folks who were up front, upstairs, doing the big show stuff, that I wanted to do so badly, were just like me. When I was older and when I had my first opportunity of serving in the church as a full-time youth director I was also blown away. This image I had was wrong and unfair. There were people full of sin and as broken as the next person. They were me. This was hard to swallow. I had placed these folks on such a high pedestal I felt guilty. What hit me though was that they were just as much in need of restoration of the soul as I was. They hurt and confronted their own stuff. They dealt with real life issues and struggled with many of the same things I’d struggle with. But they were always ready to be sent out on God‘s mission. Ready to respond to the ministry of proclamation. Ready to serve and love as Jesus loved, even in spite of what was happening in their own lives.
This is why I do what I do. I feel in some ways I’ve risen up from the pews like those I’ve watched over the years do the same. They’ve inspired me to keep doing what I‘m doing. Being with the people of God at the ground level. This is where change takes place in a persons life. This is where it happens. This where God works. This is where I get to hear how God is working. Maybe what I’m learning is that the really big show stuff happens in the pews. Not in the pulpit. Not elevated up high where the one who proclaims good news looks down upon the people. The one who proclaims good news needs to know what it’s like to rise up from the pews. In some ways the one who proclaims good news sometimes needs to go back to where it all began for them on that day God called them from their brokenness to tell others of the peace of Christ that restores the soul. This is where God works and moves. Not at the top. Not up front. But from the pews. The big show stuff I guess really happens in the pews. This is where I need to get the pulse of the church from. Maybe this is the ticket in bringing hope to the church, that the one called to preach good news, goes to the pews, empowers the people of God to rise up and help with the proclamation of God’s love.
Lord, may it be so.