I was ordained in my home church the year I finished graduate school and one year before I entered seminary. I didn’t really want to be ordained. I got convinced by a few people that it was something to do. I think back to that decision, to that time, and laugh at myself because I went kicking and screaming.
Now, I am finishing up the process of ordination for our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, and my attitude is completely different. Because I’m in a new denomination, I had to pursue its ordination in order to serve. Well, I didn’t have to. But it was very clear to me that ordination was a good idea.
As I prepare to write my paper describing my understanding of the “Central Affirmations,” along with several of my own theological understandings of the church, the role of a pastor, and the person and work of Jesus in both of them; as I look forward to an interview in October and piecing together my profile and “examples of proclamation” for the various committees and departments, I think it’s healthy to remind myself why I do the things I do. And I’m sharing them with you.
I realize that everyone who works at a job, who serves in a particular role, doesn’t feel called to that job or role. But I encourage you to think about why you’re up to the things you are. Whether you do feel a sense of call or conviction for what you do. Whether you should even.
Here’s an example of some of the things I need to spend the next couple weeks fleshing out for my process:
- Ordination has to mean something. I’ve been ordained before, by a local church, and if ordination hasn’t taken on deeper meaning for me, that’s a problem. Being a professional religious person has its benefits but it has pitfalls. Sacrifices come. Often. As I say yes to ordination, I do so with a better understanding that’s come with a few more years of pastoral ministry.
- I’m made for a congregation. As much as I enjoy writing and talking to people about solutions to problems, I think the best place for me to do that is within a church. I’ve struggled for years to find contentment in the church as a staff person. I’ve felt comfortable in other settings, and still do. But even though I’m comfortable doing other things and even with my struggles, I get to serve in a general way, inside a congregation, that captures what I enjoy.
- I love people. I love to serve people. I love to see people change, even when that change takes a long time. One of the books on my desk is titled, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” It’s by Eugene Peterson and it’s a book about Christian discipleship. It describes how slow following Jesus is, how tedious looking at Jesus and following his steps, if you will, can be. It’s a reminder–just the title–that what I do is slow work. But I love it.
- I don’t always love people. When you love and don’t love people, the best place for that movement is the church. If there is a place where I should be honest about my feelings about the people I work with and for and alongside, it’s God’s church.
- Other people think my being here is a good idea. This can be slippery, but I’ve lived my life hearing or ignoring a community’s affirmation of my purpose. When I started working in churches, I asked people whether they thought I was suited for it. Even though I didn’t follow my mother’s first advice to not work in the church, I have listened to many others along my way so far.
- Invoking God never gets old. I am not the type to say what God told me. Least not often. It sounds suspicious and presumptuous. It’s easily misunderstood, that language. Then, again, I do feel an inner sense and conviction that God has summoned me for ministry. Made me for it. And how do you argue with a person who believes they hear from the mostly unseen Creator of eveything that is seen?