Determining what vocation one will spend their life in is a daunting task. It might have been easier to live in a time and place where these things were a given based on what our families work has been for generations, but nevertheless we live in this time because this is when our Lord wants us to live. He plans all things according to his goodwill and in all likelihood, I am best suited to live in this time than in a previous generations, although I tend to think I would prefer another time period. Since God has placed us in a generation where we are able to choose what vocation we will enter, we must consider why we have chosen a particular vocation. For me, why did I choose pastoral ministry? My original major in college was journalism and I had a great desire to write or become a radio personality, but after spending two years in journalism and realizing that my desire to be a writer or give commentary wasn’t exactly being fulfilled in interviewing golf coaches and making sure to not repeat the same word in different headlines. There is a need for this work in journalism (and might I add a great need for the return of prominence and place in printed newspapers), but as a self-perceived wise young man, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I considered journalism . So what would I do? To make a long story short, I shifted to Liberal Arts with the intention of becoming a teacher or pastor, or ideally both in some capacity. I knew Liberal Arts would be best for me since everything I enjoyed, outside of journalism, was in the school of Liberal Arts and it would allow me to pursue a few different interests if pastoring didn’t work out. Thankfully, the Lord allowed me to finish seminary and confirmed my desires for pastoral ministry through ordination and a place in the local church, which is where I have been for over a decade in some capacity.
In the last ten years, I have had to ask myself why I want to be a pastor as opposed to other vocations many times. Why not a teacher at a seminary, Bible college, Christian school or university? I love to teach and write, have considerable interests in academic training and thought, so why not enter into the academy? Why not become a writer full time? I enjoy the work of writing and could live a happy, satisfied life as a full time writer, but why pastor over write? I love reading, so why not be involved in a library or work try to open a Christian book store? Again, why not journalism? Why didn’t I switch schools or, gut it out and take any place in journalism I could? I was able to write some opinion articles that were published in the paper. I enjoy sports, cultural issues and politics, so why not stay in journalism? The answer hasn’t changed over the years, but I understand better today why I want to be a pastor now and hopefully as the years go by, I will understand even better than I do now.
Overall, I sensed that the Lord called me to the work of pastoring and confirmed it through ordination in the local church. Before anything else, if the church had not recognized and laid hands me to send me out to be an under-shepherd in the church, then no desire I had would matter. God has means to place pastors in churches and local church approval and ordination is that means. I am thankful God used Lifepoint Church and George Ross to confirm my desires and the Lord’s will for my vocation.
Speaking practically, I desired to pastor, as opposed to other vocations because I wanted to work in something tangible. I love ideas, theology and their consequences, which is why I wanted to teach, but in the plainest of terms, I didn’t want to be a quarter master, equipping front line soldiers. I am beyond grateful for my teachers and see their work as absolutely crucial to the work of ministry, but I wanted to take my training, desires and the power of God’s Word, Spirit and his means of war into front line battles. I want to contribute to the battle in the local church and the homes, lives and souls of those who are there. I want to see this little town, county and region that I live in prosper under God’s blessings. I want to take the ideas and truths of Christianity and destroy the works of the devil and his evil kingdom and I wanted to do this in a local church. When I was majoring in journalism, I wanted to change the world through written and spoken words and by pastoring a local church, I get to play a part in the great work of the Spirit to kill the enemy of this world and his works and I in God’s gracious providence, I get to use written, read and spoken words. I work and fight with the weapons of the Spirit, as Malcom Gladwell calls them: prayer, Scripture, bread, wine, water and the gifts and works of the Spirit mentioned in 1st Corinthians 12, Galatians 5 and Philippians 4. I get to see these weapons used by the Spirit to build up workers, soldiers, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who enter into work that is changing the world, not like a drone, but like yeast that rises in bread. Pastoral ministry is real and tangible and its work is slow, long and requires much patience, which frankly I don’t have much of, but by God’s grace have much more than I did 15 years ago. Yet, as I grow in patience, I can see the growth and work of the Spirit and the longer I stay in one place, the more I see God defeating His enemy and the war coming to an end. Every Sunday, when the church comes away from the battlefield to enter into rest and be refreshed, as a pastor I am able to give them God’s means of grace to equip them to delight in their Master, endure in His battle, celebrate His victories and trust Him for the ultimate, future victory that is to come and has begun now. Each time His word is read and proclaimed, a song sung to His honor, a prayer is made to Him, bread is broken, the cup drank, hands raised for praise and stretched out to receive His blessing, we are making a proclamation of victory and are being equipped for further battle with our brothers and fellow soldiers for the King of Kings.
This is why I pastor and why I haven’t quit. I have to remember this on days when other things, good things seem like a better use of my time. I have to be like Timothy and remember the calling and the gifting from God that was affirmed to me in the laying on of hands. I must remember that I’m not fighting flesh and blood, but rulers, authorities and powers of darkness. This scares me, but we don’t fight alone, but with the Spirit and His weapons, alongside His people. When I feel that I can’t or don’t want to keep fighting, I must remember that each day his mercies are new. You don’t win a battle with one gun shot or swipe with a sword. You win by doing it over and over and over. Your enemy won’t submit, so you tear him down little by little, and each day, little by little he is weakened and the Spirit’s, like yeast rising in bread will begin to manifest itself in this small band of soldiers and brothers. When you wonder if you’re even making hitting the enemy, find a visible, tangible example of where the Lord has given you victory and grace. Reflect back on a baptism, a wonderful conversation or by hearing of the work of the Spirit in the congregation’s lives and their relationships with each other. These moments are needed gifts of grace that God uses to strengthen us when we are particularly weak. A pastor needs to be an earthy pastor, one that sees the earth through spiritual eyes and understands that God’s world is thick and His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that manifests itself physically. I must open my eyes and see his grace and when I feel I can’t ask His Spirit to open them for me. He will hear our prayers and grant us all we need in Christ Jesus for life and godliness, for this is His battle. I am a solider and thankfully a front line solider. I get to see the war up close in my life and the lives of others. Pastors see and know the damage of this battle with sin, the devil and the world often better than the people know themselves. But this is part of the war. We must bandage them when they are hurt, get them on their feet, help them learn how to shoot their guns and who to aim at and in God’s grace we will see a little of the kingdom of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.