I Didn’t Sign Up For That

Ordination 1983

Ordination 1983

Earlier today I was reading a blog by a young clergy person who had just returned from a conference on “Where The Church is Heading.” The point she was making is that not only were many of the laity becoming part of the category of church goers known as the “Dones” or “Almost Dones.” These are the people who are almost or are Done with the institutional church. They are still spiritual but are not coming to the church for those spiritual needs to be met.

The very same thought was voiced by Charlie Rose on this morning’s CBS Morning Show. New numbers from the Pew Research Center show that millennials are losing their faith. Less than half say religion is very important to them, and just half say they believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with nearly 70 percent of baby boomers.

“The world is changing so rapidly that religion is kind of being relegated to a back seat,” Lowenstein said. “I don’t believe that it has to be that way, but so many of the millennials don’t even want to give us a chance.” Thirty-five percent of millennials – Americans between 19 and 34 – identify as nonreligious. That’s compared to 17 percent of baby boomers and just 11 percent of those over 70. Lowenstein believes less religion will have an impact. “I think people will grow up and they won’t feel a connection to anything. And to me, the thousands of years of history of the Jewish religion give us the tools that we need to combat any challenge that we face today,” he said. The Pew study did have some good news for believers. Although fewer Americans affiliate with a religion, those who do, do so with conviction — two-thirds of adults who identify with a religion say they pray every day.

In the clergy person’s  blog she said some of the clergy in her group stated that they were among the almost dones. One even voiced his belief in these words: “I was called to be a pastor, not someone who puts out the toilet paper, locks and unlocks the church, turns the lights on and off, etc., etc. etc. I didn’t sign up for that.”

Wow, what a revealing comment that may just be the slip that hits the problem on the head… Our call is not fleshed out. Before accepting my call… while I was still running from it, I went for an interview at a bank. The VP  gave me the best job description I have ever heard: He said: “Your job is to do everything you can to enhance the image of this bank as people who care about all their customers. That means sweeping the floor, picking up trash, running errands, help customers with their needs…whatever it takes that is what you need to do.” I carried that thought into ministry… easy to do because my father was a Methodist minister before me… his example led me.

I remember the early days when I was a student pastor… going to college and serving two churches, and dealing with a District Superintendent who was a very bad example of servant ministry. He was supposed to be my mentor/example of pastoral leadership. Because of him and his behavior I wanted to quit about every month. Then it grew to wanting to quit every week. Finally, I wanted to quit every day. This man treaded me so badly that it was affecting my work, my life, my calling. So much so that one day the chairperson of our Admin Board told me I need to find another job… that I wasn’t supposed to be a preacher. That really tore me up – – – just to think that I was so affected that people I was called to serve had the opinion that I didn’t belong in the ministry.

I went deep into myself… asking God for an answer to this question… what should I do. I prayed and prayed and prayed some more. After about two weeks the answer came… not in a voice I could hear but in a clear impression of what God was saying: “Get all the way in or all the way out.” So I need to quit complaining… stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with the task of ministry… to the extent that I was in for the long haul… no matter what.

I must tell you that after that day I never wanted to quit again. Yes, I had some really bad days, where I wasn’t respected and treated awfully. I felt bad at times, but I never again wanted to quit. What we need today are pastors who will do anything needed to do the hard work of ministry and proclaim the love of Christ… no matter what. Stop thinking about what you thought the job was you signed up for and surrender yourself to being all in the work of ministry. That is the way God will change the church… through dedicated servants who are willing to lay it ALL on the line for the privilege of serving.

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