This past week, I traveled with a colleague to Duke Divinity School to talk with individuals there who might be interested in serving in the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference of our United Methodist Church upon graduation. It was a joy to spend a day in a place I love (particularly since I was given Duke basketball tickets for that night in the middle of the day). I love talking with people about their call and the ways in which God is at work in their lives. In my mind, there is no vocation more rewarding than being a pastor. I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life.
When I gathered with a group of young adult clergy last month in preparation for our Conference's recruiting efforts, we talked about why we love doing what we do. Here are some of the responses:
I have a sense of purpose.
People are coming with heavy hearts.
I get to see people as they grow.
The hours are flexible; I can get my hair cut in the middle of the week.
The day to day stuff of our lives is where we do effective ministry.
There is a sense of assurance.
I am not just looking for the next best thing.
Nothing is missing. I am where God has called me to be.
We get to point out the hope in people's lives.
We are privileged to be part of one's life journey.
We get to be part of so many sacred moments.
Ministry helps me to see just how precious life is.
I cannot believe I get paid to do this.
And then, my friend, Alisa, sent me this story:
The late Frederick Speakman, noted Presbyterian minister, told the story of shaking hands at the door one Sunday when the service was over. As he came back down the aisle the lights were already turned out. He sensed that strange aliveness of an empty church just after worship. Some things were left behind. A bulletin with a shopping list in the margins ~ hopefully, not during the sermon. In this pew, a pair of gloves; in the next, a pencil on the floor and a candy wrapper on the seat. As he reached the chancel he stared once more at the empty sanctuary and thought to himself, "I wonder what else has been left behind." Wouldn't it be every pastor's dream to come down the aisle after worship and find other items there. You know, in this pew a lady's deep grief; there, a man's bitter disappointment or sense of failure. In another section some secret sin, whether real or imagined, not all that ultimate as long as it was discarded. Further on, the more bulky trash of a badly bruised ego, the remains of a heated argument on the way to church. Anger, guilt, hurt ~ all the stuff that can beat us up and burn us out ~ swept up and thrown out with the rest of the leftover trash. Realized forgiveness ~ God's grace as a renewable resource ~ he whispered to himself.
"That's the only thing that keeps some of us going."
What a blessing it is to be a pastor. This is the best job in the world.