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Just a Working Pastor of a Real Church which I Love

August 20, 2016

Some have asked me about the way I self-identified here yesterday and asked me to say more about that.

I described myself as a working pastor of a real church which I love. 

Breaking that down into its three parts…

a working pastor — I’m under appointment in the United Methodist system, which I unashamedly believe to be the best system for linking pastors and churches. None are going to be perfect, from The Call System (“we pick our own pastors”) to The Appointment System (“wonder what the Bishop’s gonna send us this time”) and all in between. But this is our system, and I have no complaints.

A much wiser person than I’ll ever be told me when I was younger that in our way of doing things, “Every church is guaranteed a pastor and every pastor is guaranteed a church, but ain’t nobody guaranteed to be happy.”

People let pastors into their lives in significant ways in an massive variety of times in their lives. “Good time, bad times” in the words of an old Led Zepplin song, from baptisms to weddings to funerals to praying at a Pinewood Derby and all points in between. Ask me sometime about the wedding I did on Halloween in a bar.

I served on a committee interviewing potential clergy. One of the candidates had been turned down by several other groups and was now before us. One comment stuck with me: “For the last three years, I’ve been writing a sermon every week. I have nowhere to preach it, but I write one every week.” Initially I was impressed with the dedication this demonstrated. Then it slowly dawned on me that this individual just might have found a place to share these sermons over the past three years, perhaps even adapted some into Sunday School lessons. Sermons aren’t done when they’re written, nor when they’re preached; sermons are done only when they’re lived. I was much less favorably impressed with this sermon-writer’s hobby.

I’m a working pastor.

...of a real church. One of the 2.5 churches I served for four years when fresh out of seminary (ask me about the “2.5” sometime) won The Outstanding Small Church of The District, and then Of The Conference as well. Suddenly colleagues were asking me for leadership, administrative and pastoral advice. I realized quickly that none of us are as horrible as we’re afraid we are, but neither are we as fabulous as we’d like to pretend we are.

By the grace of God we’re real people pastoring real churches. We’re human. We’re sinners saved by God. And we’re all in this together.

Saints and sinners are in our pews.

And in our pulpits.

A real church is perhaps best defined as a Sinners Anonymous group.

A much wiser person than I’ll ever be told me when I was younger that there is no perfect church. Even if there were, the wise one went on, as soon as one of us arrived as a pastor there we’d immediately mess it up just by our presence.

I’m a working pastor of a real church.

...which I love. It’s been my humbling honor to so far have served several different kinds and sizes of churches. I’ve been an associate pastor, and a solo pastor, and I’ve enjoyed working with associate pastors in shared appointments.

A much wiser person than I’ll ever be told me when I was younger that the best thing to do as a pastor going into a new church is to “just love ’em.” While there’s more to it that and the one who told me this exemplified ever-developing pastoral skills, love is the thematic tone for all else. Or else get out.

The churches who have welcomed me have themselves been sometimes thrilling, sometimes aggravating, sometimes right and sometimes wrong. The people who are those churches could say the same things about me.

An old song says it best:

I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we’re the church together!

Sometimes the church is marching;
sometimes it’s bravely burning,
sometimes it’s riding, sometimes hiding;
always it’s learning.

I believe that because I experience that. Regularly. Repeatedly. We really “are the church together” and we’d better be “always…learning” and making a difference.

It’s in the church that I’ve found and seen more love and acceptance and hope that anywhere else.

It’s in the church that I’ve been challenged and comforted and changed like nowhere else.

It’s in the church. It’s in the people of the church. It’s in the people who are the church.

And the very reason we exist as The United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

I’m a working pastor of a real church which I love.

If you’ve not been completely bored by my epic encyclopedia of a blog today, I’ll see you back here tomorrow and we’ll move forward together.


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One Comment
  1. Not boring at all! In fact, I like it when there is a little win in your sail!! (As teenagers, others and I use to make fun of that hymn. in our peanut gallery of the balcony.) It is amazing how much validity and direction it provides today!


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