Lately I’ve received a few invitations to return to the pastorate. They are all invitations to join pastoral teams. I wonder if the Lord will allow me to return to the pastorate one more time. But of this I am sure. God has to lead the way. I am not looking for a job.
Indeed I am more convinced than ever that the pastorate is no job. An invitation to pastor a church is an invitation to join a community. Hence if any invitation were to come my way, these will be my two key questions.
1. Is this a community where my family and I can belong?
I don’t know about you but I am hungry for a church family that will celebrate me for who I am rather than condemn me for who I am not. I am looking for a community that will allow me to love them. I am looking for a safe place to live and grow. Like all of us I am looking for genuine family. I am grateful that I belong to such a church family right now.
2. Is this a community that will allow me to be a good steward of my spiritual gifts?
At this stage of my life, I am clear that my primary gifts are teaching, leadership and encouragement. No matter who pays the bills, this is who I am. Even if I continue to serve as an itinerant minister, these are the gifts I have been called to use for God’s purposes. Any church that calls me to be a pastor must encourage me to do what I am.
As I reflected more on these two questions I realized that they represent two primary dimensions of being human. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve formed the first human community. It was not good for man to be alone. Yet this was also a community committed to vocation. Adam and Eve had to work the garden. They had to care for God’s creation. Community and vocation are two primary dimensions of being human.
This is seen in the New Testament as well. In Romans 12:5 Paul reminds us that “we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.” (NET) He then goes on to encourage the Roman Christians to minister according to their gifts (v.6-8). The church is a place where we belong and it is also a place of service that gives expression to our giftedness. Community and vocation.
Sin affected both the communal and the vocational dimensions of human life. But it did not remove them. To be human is to desire to belong. This is why loneliness is such a killer. To be human is also to want to use your abilities to make a difference. Work that does not tap into our passion kills too, through boredom. Unfortunately loneliness and boredom are pandemic in the modern world, silent killers of the soul.
Therefore the search for community and vocational fit is not something that is just for those of us in church related vocations. It is for all of us. It is an expression of our humanity. And a pastor is human before he is anything else.
I have been around the block enough times to know that there will be no perfect ministry positions. I expect my hunger for community and vocational expression to be fully experienced only in heaven. More and more I long for that time because more and more I understand the logic of heaven.
Until that time there will be no perfect jobs, no perfect churches or organizations to work for. Indeed daily I am confronted by my own imperfections and by my failures. But until heaven, I am to work and serve in the here and now.
So I wait upon the Lord. I serve where I am till I receive fresh orders. But I will expect that any move, if it comes, will lead me to a community where I am more at home, a community which will encourage me to bless them with who I am.
No, I am not looking for a job. I am looking for community, a family to walk with. And I am looking for a place to be who I am. Of course I am looking for heaven, but until then I will take whatever the Lord gives.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan