Those Rising Stars…
Most congregations have their own private collection of rising stars. They may be few or many. There may be a young lawyer or two. Perhaps an accountant, or youthful executive type. Within a year or two at most they are happily out earning the pastor who has been on the job for half a life time. Their career paths are taking off.
In their despondent moments it is not surprising that pastors may wonder where they went wrong. All this devotion to a call to ministry and where does it get you? Still with a mortgage or no house at all. A beaten up car with leaky rings and a stereo marketed just after Noah hit Mt Ararat. Job security is not guaranteed and you can never predict what tomorrow will produce. There may be some joy to keep you going but you can bet there will be a few dramas to exercise your prayer life.
Are Pastors Climbing, Too?
Well at least pastors are not climbing over each other to get to the top. There is no dog-eat-dog in the ministry. And as for the career path, let’s not get too carried away! But is there just a risk that there could be some hankering after better things? Might there not be an unspoken well worn trail up the Everest of spiritual ambition? For example:
* Could it be that the rural church is regarded as the leaping off point for that congregation in the big smoke?
* Or may be it is desirable to shift from “Anywhere Small Church” to “Central Location Big Church”?
* Or from part-time pastor to full-time?
* Or from the old conservative congregation to user friendly contemporary?
* Or from solo pilot to team captain?
* Or from the run down mission hall to brand spanking new facilities?
* Or from survival dollars and a bag of vegies each week to all the lurks, the perks and the proper rewards which come with a ministry which is truly blessed?
From Smaller To Larger
There seems to be an understood assumption that the next move, whatever form it may take, is to bigger and better, from smaller to larger, from poorer to richer, from out in the sticks to the middle of the action.
Who us have not, at some time or another, seen ourselves in rather more spectacular circumstances than we may be in at the present? Tucked safely away in most of us is the desire for grander things. We may feel devalued or overlooked when we observe colleagues moving into rather more exciting ministries than ours.
What’s so remarkable about them anyway?
Pastors ARE Funny!
Pastors are a funny mob. There is an ingrained need for affirmation, to be noticed, to be appreciated. We hurt when there is no seeming reward for genuine effort. It is not that we are necessarily dissatisfied with our lot. Rather, it is that we feel our hard work and dedication should warrant a little more notice than it seems to attract. We sense that the “big one” in ministry for us is yet to come.
Mind you, we are not about to push ourselves or launch a subtle promotional campaign. But, my goodness, the temptation hovers around in the ether from time to time.
Part of the problem is that the grass does often seem to be greener on the other side of the fence. Who would not trade in a deacon or two on a bad day or pray that a few of our troublesome people might receive an early graduation into Glory?
It is so easy to feel stifled, constrained and without any possibility of relief. It is about here that we start to wonder if the quietness on our own western front might just be swapped for something a little more exciting, more manageable and more hassle free.
Some of us are genuinely inspired by our own remarkable giftedness. God has been generous to us and we have much to offer His people. Not for a moment do we consider that we have reached the peak of our significant contribution to the Kingdom.
Besides, we feel sufficiently blessed to want to share this goodness all around. We just know that greater things are in store for us and all who will come to know us. Our theological back pack is a little heavier than the rest of the herd. We have that extra something when it comes to getting a point across.
Are You Peaking Over The Fence???
Now there is only one difficulty in all of this peaking-over-the-fence-anticipating-greater-days syndrome. Our Founder would not have a bar of it. He was unconcerned about His own reputation. His curious personnel selection policy carried at least one fatal flaw and, when the chips were down, another denied his associations with Him while the rest just disappeared.
It was not a great start. He chided His colleagues for debating the who-is-greatest around-here subject and would not book the best seats at His table in the hereafter for His ambitious friends. Further, there is not a shred of evidence that he promoted Himself in any shape or form. He even bamboozled them all by suggesting that they would do a lot better if they became like children.
For all His hard work, he ended up being killed for it. Now, what kind of career path is this?
Perhaps we would do a lot better if we were just plain thankful that His grace has saved us and that He has taken yet another risk in calling us to serve Him. Maybe we should learn to revel in the mystery of the present without getting too hung up about what may happen tomorrow. Although we may indeed be an odd collection, we might even be the vehicle of joy, love and encouragement for those to whom we have been called right now.
Since when have we had the right to lust after greater things, to wonder what our name might look like when it goes up in lights?
A Pastoral Career Path?
A career path for pastors? Let’s get real.
The bottom line is not being noticed but being obedient; not being spiritual super stars working miracles but holding the hands of the homeless and the hopeless; of believing that true greatness is discovered in the doing of simple acts of kindness which will never be seen except by those who are on the receiving end.
Our career path is about being taken for granted, about serenity when the tables are turned against us, about wearing criticism from the self righteous and those who know better, about locking horns with those who abuse and exploit. The rewards won’t be terrific when measured by the bench marks of our own culture; But they will be close to what the Carpenter was on about.
It’s a shame no one talked to Him about being a little wiser, a little more street wise, just a touch more assertive. It could have been so different. There is no doubt about it: He could have made it to the top if only He had tried.
Rev. John Simpson