He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (Emphasis mine)
Over the past 12 years that I’ve served as pastor of this community of faith, God has been transforming my eyesight. Not in a “healing the blind” kind of way. I still need corrective lenses to see with any clarity whatsoever. The transformation God has been patiently undertaking is in the way I see, or understand, the world and the things that happen to and around me. Actually, as I reflect on the transformation it has been going on for most of my life. But, serving as a pastor has helped to accelerate the process.
In my pre-pastoral life I would have to say that most days I didn’t pay much attention to God, or what God was doing in, through and around me. I lived my life with the assumption that God existed, but the God I knew then was probably most like a High School Principal. You know they are around, but unless you are one of the few students who get to know the principal on good terms (student government, etc…) they are someone you really don’t want to visit. I wasn’t one of those students who would have a good reason to see the principal in High School, nor was I one to be called into the office for disciplinary reasons. The same was mostly true for my relationship with God. I did have some impactful encounters with God as a teenager (for example, my call to ministry became clear during those years) but for the most part God was a somewhat distant reality in my life. I knew God was there, but I certainly didn’t want to get called into the divine “principal’s office” for doing something wrong, and I really didn’t have the desire to be a leader. After all, how could anyone expect God to use someone like me, with all my faults?
I don’t know for certain, but my sense is that most people live their lives in very much this same way. God shows up at our pep assemblies and to call us out of class when we’ve done something wrong. But that’s about the extent of God’s interaction with the world. Sure, we believe in God, we know we are supposed to do good things and we hope that at the end of it all we’ve made the grade and can walk the eternal graduation line and enter into heaven.
When Jennie and I found a church home at First Christian in Lebanon, we made some friends and began to get involved. But not “too” involved. Even through our time with Journey Christian Church in Lebanon, we didn’t take on leadership positions. That all started to change for me when I was introduced to a different way of thinking about God. For me this happened with an event called “Camino.” The best way I can describe Camino is a weekend church camp for adults, where participants are guided to experience God’s grace in a powerful and transformational way. It is not un-like Men’s Encounter or Ashes to Beauty. But, even after attending Camino and serving during several weekends, God was still very much that detached principal in the sky.
Though my vision correction began with that experience, it was my involvement in the local church, the community of faith which has enabled me to see the world differently and more clearly than before.
A day doesn’t go by where I don’t see God working in my life and in the lives of everyone I know. When a life ends too soon, I see God at work in the lives of the community. When there is a joy to celebrate, I see God working in the lives of the faithful. And when it is business as usual, I’ve begun to see the subtle ways in which God is working for healing and restoration.
And I think that is due to my involvement with the church, with a community of faith. I believe it is a direct result of my willingness to answer “Yes” when asked to serve God. Most of you will not be asked to quit your job, go to seminary and enter into full-time vocational ministry. But it is my hope and prayer that you will take a leap of faith and say “Yes” when asked to serve the church (because you probably will be asked.) Or if you can’t take a leap of faith, at least you will take time to truly and deeply pray about how you might serve or lead as we journey together.