Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pastoral ministry

These are questions given me by someone interviewing me for a class.

Why are you a pastor? What led you to your sense of being "called" into pastoral ministry?

Because I have been a Jesus freak for a long time, some folks assumed that I would try to be a pastor. I always told them that I couldn't be a pastor because I was too rude and forthright in speech to be a good pastor. No one would want to come to my church! I actually trained to be a missionary.
In 1997, God spoke to me to quit my job and to work full time in ministry among the homeless some of us had already begun. Diane and I started Anawim ministry full time in Peace Mennonite Church, which was a ministry to the homeless community in Gresham. We did some counseling, a bit of teaching and food ministry, as well as referrals. After about a year or so, Peace, as a church, determined that they didn't want to participate with Anawim any more. So we had a choice, we could either stop what God had called us to do, or we could begin our own congregation. So instead of Anawim being an outreach of Peace, it became it's own congregation and we worked as a church plant. At that point I became the de-facto pastor-- Diane didn't want it.
So, in a sense, I never had a call to be a pastor. I had a call to do ministry, to teach, to assist the homeless and the mentally ill. I also have a call to write and to pray. But I would be doing this whether I was a pastor or not. I am not sure if I am a good pastor. I certainly still am of the opinion that I am not a good pastor for those of middle class culture. But I am doing what God wants me to do.

What are some of your personal and professional values in pastoral ministry? What is important to you?

I actually have a long list. These are the people God is looking for:

 Those who trust in the Lord to provide their needs, even if their needs are not met for a time.

-Those who will give up on the American dream, but be content with what God has given them.

 Those who do mercy to others, not just to the repentant, but to those who have the possibility of repenting.

 Those who are directed by the word of Jesus and the Spirit.

 Those who create a community which encourages discipleship.

 Those who remain gentle when provoked—i.e. those who create trust in crisis.

 Those who reveal the Lord in a tri-unity of action, attitude and word.

 Those who confess and repent their own faults, especially reconciling with those whom they have done wrong.

 Those who do not judge by appearances, but listen to find the hidden core of another.

 Those who know that their wisdom does not rest in themselves, but they are dependant on the Lord for what little wisdom they have.

 Those who know that if they fail to depend on the Lord, their leadership fails.

 Those who are humble before those to whom one is giving hospitality or service.

 Those who do not seek the world or worldly means to meet their goals in the Lord, but they are patient for the Lord’s timing.

 Those who regularly wait in the presence of the Lord, listening to the Spirit.

 Those willing and ready to do the lowest tasks joyfully, knowing that humility is the means of our exaltation.

 Those not seeking titles or positions or authorities, but accepting responsibility when it is necessary and offered.

 Those who will consistently pray for others in need, so guiding the Lord’s grace to them.

 Those ready to use all resources at their disposal for the outcast, the needy and the seekers of God, so that they are known as generous.

 Those who will do whatever whenever however, using whatever resources in order to draw other closer to the Lord.

 Those who do not demand a salary, but will accept whatever the Lord offers—even if it is nothing—just in order to do the Lord’s work.

 Those who will not give up on one who is soft toward the Lord for the sake of another, but will draw all toward unity in Christ.

 Those who do not force the truth of God on anyone, but grant all the option of refusing to hear it.

 Those who will create space for, opportunity for, and desire in others to listen to the Spirit.

 Those who have experience of hard labor on earth and of hard rest in the Lord.

 Those who will sacrifice their comfort, their well-being, their relationships, their possessions, their future in this world for the sake of God’s kingdom.

While this isn't the normal definition of a "pastor", I believe that the Lord is calling people with these commitments to be in ministry, no matter what their profession.

What is one of the more difficult specific pastoral situations you have faced?

In broad terms, what do you most enjoy about being a pastor? What do you find most difficult?
(Just to let you know, all of the following is my personal experience)
It is hard to stand up to someone who is threatening to beat you, fists in your face, and not give in to anger, or give up on protecting others.
It is hard to see people give up on the Lord for their own gods that have destroyed their lives up until that point.
It is hard to tell people what you know they don't want to hear, and then be blamed because they didn't like the message.
It is hard to study for a week, a month or a year on a subject, and then be told that you don't know what you're talking about.
It is hard to be called a heretic for standing with what Jesus says.
It is hard to rarely have a moment of quiet for yourself.
It is hard to hardly have time to talk to your wife, to be mentally exhausted all the time, to go to bed each night, with your body feeling like you have been beaten.

It is great when you see people making decisions for God based on one of your teachings.
It is great to get the opportunity to baptize someone.
It is great to see dozens of people show up just because they wanted to hear you teach God's word.
It is great to have someone who you think is ignorant-- because they are mentally ill, for instance-- teach you something that you never would have thought of yourself.
It is great to have the opportunity to "set appointments" to pray and to study God's word, and no one will tell you that you aren't doing anything important.
It is great to share God's love with people all the time, every day, through both action and word.
It is great to have the opportunity to do just what God wants you to do, when He tells you to do it.

But probably my most favorite part of being in this ministry is seeing the Spirit work through me, because I am too ignorant, too weak, too tired, too impatient to do it right. So when it happens just right, I know that it's God working through me! That's the best!

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