So I wanted to take a few minutes here tonight and give a quick update on what’s going on with me personally. It’s mainly for my personal friends and family, and I was just going to do a Facebook post, but this is a better medium to be able to talk without half of what I want to say being hidden by a “see more” button. Plus, I figure some of you who follow what I have to say here on the blog might be interested as well.
As you may know, at one point, I was going to be a pastor in a very conservative denomination. However, the more I looked at their theology, and the more I looked at the way many Christians in the world (particularly in America) treat others, at one point I decided I had enough. I went off the deep end and threw the baby out with the bathwater. I read Dawkins, and Hitchens, and Russell, and I treated a lot of people (people I loved and who loved me in return) like total garbage because my new “views” gave me a sense of superiority over others. I’ve detailed that in the past, and I’m not going to go in depth into it here, but then some years ago, in the midst of great personal upheaval, I found out about the teachings of John Wesley (as well as other Christian thinkers) who talked about how the main Christian message was about love, sacrifice, service, and reconciliation. That finally jived with the loving Jesus my family and my former pastor/mentor had always talked about. This rekindled my faith and I experienced the love and acceptance of Christ like I never had until that point. I like to think of it as my own little “Aldersgate Experience.”
It was one year ago (almost exactly) that Pastor Gary asked if I was willing to preach a sermon on a Sunday when he was going to be gone. It hit me like a lightning bolt, and despite the fact that I hadn’t preached in years and was quite uncomfortable, I decided, after much prayer, to go for it. It went really well. Then just a few Sundays ago I had the chance to do it again, and it went just as well. One individual told me that she was moved to tears, another said that he felt like God had given me that message to speak just to him. I was floored, to say the least. I couple this with another experience that I had when I preached last year. After the sermon when I was greeting people at the back of the sanctuary, a woman I had never seen before told me to make sure I wasn’t ignoring the call God had placed on my life. I’ve never seen her since. Nobody at church remembers seeing her before or since. In my mind on my flightiest days I’ve imagined that she was an angel, which sounds totally over the top and trippy as it was probably just a visitor who enjoyed the sermon, but maybe she was in the sense that she was a messenger (albeit one without wings and a halo).
So a few weeks ago I met with Pastor Gary. Nobody outside my family and just a couple of my closest friends knew about this, and I asked him what the options were to be a minister in the United Methodist Church. He was very supportive of me and encouraged me to possibly pursue one of three different roads.
First off, I could become a certified lay leader in my local congregation, which would entail doing some specific training toward that end and would allow me to do various tasks assisting the clergy. Second, I could work to become a “local pastor,” where I wouldn’t have to attend seminary per se, but would agree to a certain training and continuing education regimen which would allow me to perform some duties of the clergy, usually on a part time basis, without undergoing full ordination, and I could be sent various places by the Bishop of our Conference. Finally, I could pursue full ordination by attending seminary and obtaining a Master’s degree, thereby becoming a full time minister. I would then go anywhere the Church decided to send me.
I have to admit that this final road, seminary and full time ministry seems to be where my heart is headed at the moment, but I’m not sure. It would mean 2-3 years of school (which is fine, but it costs money) and is a huge commitment. Plus it’s like Gary said, just because you become a minister and go to serve a church doesn’t mean that the people are going to make it easy on you or even LIKE YOU or what you have to say! It certainly is a job that requires a ton of patience, devotion, and commitment. Am I up to that challenge? I like to think I am, but who knows? I constantly fight a battle in my mind to make sure I really want to do this for Christ and his Kingdom instead of my own ego, which is larger than I like to admit. Of course, it has been said to me that it takes a person with a certain kind of ego to be able to comfortably stand in front of others every Sunday and preach! There is a fine, fine line between ego and self confidence I guess, but even though I am supremely confident in my ability to speak, I know that it was given to me as a gift by my Creator to be used for his purposes, not mine. I’m thankful for that, and ever since I started blogging about Christianity I’ve always thought that if God could use my words to touch the life of just one other person for the better then it would definitely be time and words well spent.
So where do I go from here? Well, the first step for any of the three options above would be to actually join the UMC as a full fledged member, which I intend to do at the earliest chance. After that I have to be a member in good standing for at least a year before I could be eligible to have my church recommend me for one of those positions. At which point I would have to state my intention and the church would then have to actually recommend me, which is them basically saying “We believe in him and we would be perfectly fine to have him as our pastor.” At that point the rubber would really meet the road and I’d have to decide exactly which road I want to pursue.
It’s not easy, it’s daunting. In just a few hours I’ll be 38 years old. Not exactly a spring chicken to be heading back to school. However, stranger things happen everyday and God has a history of using people that you wouldn’t expect to do his will (think Peter and Paul). I constantly pray for his guidance in this matter, and I ask humbly that you keep me in your prayers and thoughts at this time as well.
I desire nothing more than to devote my time and my life to serving God and serving others, as well as sharing the love, grace, and humility of Christ with others in this dark world. With His help, I can do it, without it, and without love, I am nothing but a sounding gong or clanging symbol, as Paul wrote.
So many of you have been so supportive and encouraging of me, especially my parents who exercise the patience of a saint with me (thanks) and a particular young lady named Mattie who touched my life in a way that nobody save Christ himself can, and got me to open my beaten, broken, and scarred heart again after so many years of anger and self pity. I will be eternally thankful for her as well. There are so many more that I should mention that might read this: Rick, Sara, Netta, Katie, Bill, Claire, Gary, Jeff, Andrea, Andrew, our adult Sunday School class at CUMC…I could never thank you enough or pay you back for what so many of you have given me. You’re each a special blessing.
I’ll keep you all posted. Please think of and pray for me as I do for each of you.
In Christ’s Peace,