Monday, February 13, 2006

Program-Driven, People-Driven, Purpose-Driven, Porpoise-Driven...

This year has marked my first experience in full-time ministry. I have done full-time summer internships and have been involved in part-time college and church ministries for about five years, but beginning this past August, I began my first stint as a full-time intern pastor.

The first shock: the Title
Now technically, since I am not licenced or ordained, I am unsure if it is appropriate for people to call me 'pastor,' but they do. Not all, but a lot. In my previous ministry context, I slowly transitioned from a 'new attender' to a 'youth volunteer' to 'intern.' As an intern at that church, I never really felt like 'staff.' This is natural, of course. I was part-time and was pretty much subordinate to the existing full-time pastors. There is an identity issue inherent in my new title at Hope. When people look at me as pastor. When I come to the church as pastor, never before being a parishioner at said church, there is a huge identity difference from my prior situation. I think you get it.

The second shock: the Reality
Throughout college and my first year of seminary, I took the stance of ironic detachment/observation in my ministry classes. I was pretty skeptical of anything that used the word 'programming' or seemed motivated by numbers increases or that reached the New York Times Bestseller list. I threw around labels like 'inauthentic,' 'sterile,' 'robotic' and 'rote formulas' like they were going out of style (though usually not aloud).

Most of this was rooted in my own arrogance. I looked at the ideas of all these ministers. They all seemed to have thing figured out, and they all had advice for me, but they most often didn't match up. I didn't know what to believe, what to agree with, what to dismiss as trivial, so I did the natural thing. I said, 'give me the Bible. That's all I need for ministry. If I study that enough, I won't need the advice of all these pastors and youth pastors. They seem to have everything all figured out in their ministry context, but I have no idea what my ministry is going to look like, so when it comes down to it, I will look at it Biblically, and my ministry will be all good.

Well, now I'm in my context, and I'm still trying to figure out which way is north. Now I feel like I need the advice of all those 'experts' that I was so cynical about in college. Or maybe I just need to continue to observe, think Biblically, seek input from my congregation, pray like crazy, and adjust accordingly. Or maybe-gasp!-I need all of the above. Maybe I need all the help I can get. Maybe I'm not the great island dwelling genius I have given myself credit for in my mind. Maybe I need God, need others, need help like everyone else. Maybe I need to practice what I preach all the time. One body, many parts with Christ at the head...sound familiar? Oh, right.

The third shock: the Responsibility
As my wife has pointed out from different angles, I have never had to be responsible for myself. I went straight from home to college to marriage to seminary, and here I am at Hope Covenant Church. And I've never had to take care of myself. I have treated my wife like my mom, and have not consistently taken responsibility for maintaining our house, making my meals, making decisions, etc. I have been a mooch.

Well, at Hope, I am responsible. I am in charge. I call the shots. It's a learning experience that I think I'm growing in. I think I am scratching the surface of what it means to be a full-time pastor, being 'in charge' of certain areas of ministry, whatever that may entail: publicity, recruiting volunteers, teaching, music, administrating, coordinating, talking to people, emailing, etc. I am just now seeing how much of my life I put onto others. I have not been very responsible, and somehow taking on more responsibility at church has uncovered my lack of responsibility at home and in every area of my life.

I guess three shocks is enough for now, but I am still figuring things out. Where does God want me to help take this church? What should my focus be? How should I approach ministry? Where does reality intersect with my relentless idealism?

I don't know. But it's a trip just thinking about it.


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