You know those moments. Standing at the foot of the mountain looking up. The journey looks ominous, too ominous. You begin to hesitate and think that you are not the one to undertake this. That you would surely fail. Fear begins to creep into your mind that moments before were brimming with confidence. The wonder why do we get charged with his monumental task instead of someone else. Don’t you know who I am? With all my failures, past improprieties, and lack of overwhelming self confidence, I have still been tapped to be a part of conquering this mountain.
I stand at one of those moments. It is something that I have wanted to do for years, be a part of something that is new and will make a difference. People have told me that I can do it, that I have the right thought process to do this. I even have some past experience in it. Then why do these doubts still rise?
Too often we encounter these thoughts at the base of the mountain. Those thoughts can easily paralyze us from moving forward. In “Christian-ese” we use the word called/ calling, in common everyday meaning it is fulfilling our God given task. Everyone is given a calling. It can be recognized by our reaction to a God given burden upon us.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one bodyand one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.- Ephesians 4:1 (NIV)
How we react to those callings? You and I can either run or head up the mountain. I choose the mountain. That does not mean that I don’t have self doubts with myself, no wonder I surround myself with a great team. We are not sent on “lone ranger” tasks by ourselves, but are supported/ encouraged along the way. Each time moments of self doubt creeps into my thoughts I remember my purpose: to live a life worthy of my calling. It does not mean I cut and run at the first sign of trouble, but dig in with the strength that only God can bring and the team that I have been blessed with.
It’s time to dig in and take on this mountain. Should be fun, there is nothing else I would rather want to do.
A couple of weeks ago I posted on my facebook page that I needed an arch-nemesis. The response I got was that I need to love everyone and that Pastors should not have one. Granted theologically that is correct. But I would like to throw out a different angle. I was sitting in the church parking lot thinking about my past and where I have been led in this journey. It was always the “arch-nemesis” that pushed me to search within myself that forced me to be more than I thought I could be. That parent that thought that I was an awful administrator or the person that thought that I was not caring enough during a hospital visit. I am not saying that we need to look for someone to destroy us (as many arch-nemesis’s do), but perhaps we need to look to a more dulled down version of our comic heroes. In Batman, Spiderman, and X-Men they each had an arch-nemesis. Whether they were Green Goblin, Sandman, or Doc. Octopus. While there intention was to destroy our heroes, rule the world, or have wealth beyond the imagination. I would like to offer a pastoral alternative.That alternative being pushing who I am as a pastor. No matter where you are or serving in a “perfect” church we will always have those people within the congregation. Someone that does not agree with you. I recall several congregational meetings in which were called in order to agree the installation of a new pastor. The pastor was great, but someone had to voice discontent. Not because the pastor was awful, but simply to disagree and being the voice of the discontent. Pastor’s run into them all the time. I had a congregation member that was not pleased with my sermons, no matter how good they were received or how good they were. Jokingly he would come up to me after service and tell me my sermon could have been better. Did he not know how well I exegeted it? Talked about the nominative pluralities and everything. What I have learned from these people is that they push who I am as a pastor to do better. While I may not like it they are put here for a reason.1. Arch-nemesis push us to do better- Far too often it is easy to be complacent in ministry or comfortable in the position in which we are. A arch-nemesis is one that is always on your heals and does not let you become comfortable. As pastors it sometimes is easy to enjoy the congregational love and not want to shake the boat. The nemesis does not let us get too comfortable in our chairs.2. Arch-nemesis force us into areas where we do not see possibilities- There are always alternative ways or something that we should be doing, but sometimes we cannot see it becoming a reality. Without someone to push us, shove us, or throw us into those directions we will naturally not go into those areas.3. Arch-nemesis deflate our ego- Each sunday after preaching everyone comes up to you and tells you how good your sermon is. Even if it is awful and was taken off the internet. This causes us to have our ego boosted. The amount of positive reinforcement to negative is incredibly skewed to the positive. I have friends that keep my ego sane and deflate it, but we all need those people to keep us even keeled.I can list those that have been my arch-nemesis’s over the years. Some I am more thankful for than others. They have been put in my life by God to push me and encourage me on my journey. Every pastor needs an arch-nemesis to push their status quo.
I have spent the last couple of days in a sense of internal conflict. Some of the questions I have been arguing over in my head and those around me is where is the church’s or our own sense of responsibility for the church universal. While I do feel that I have a call to pastoral ministry and it have been mostly verified by the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, our Session, and by others. In Presby-speak it needs to be verified by the Session, Presbytery, and a “Calling” Church.Anyways my definition for a call has been shaped by the words of Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian pastor who writes, “The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” The place where a GOD calls you and where the needs of the world meet is where our calling is. That is so true, for each of us we have our own calling. That calling has been put into us by God. Whether it is to be a teacher, minister, office manager, to serve others, be a behind the scenes person or whatever makes us glad. The place where our own personal call and the place where the worlds desire and need is becomes our personal calling.Social responsibility is something entirely different but yet the same. It comes from several different passages.Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.“orMatthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Our sense of responsibility can also be called social responsibility. This responsibility also comes as mandate and a call from God, but is different than our own personal call. Social responsibility is not a personal call but a universal call. It was best described to me by my wife last night in a pretty cool illustration. She said if someone where to knock on our door with a need right now we would in our best way possible to help them. If they needed food we would help them to the best of our abilities. If they needed a million dollars it would be beyond us and would take a community to solve the problem. The Bible talks about that we need to aid and love those around us. Those that need someone to listen to them, support them, be a confidant, among a myriad of other things.I am socially responsible for many of the issues in the world but that does not mean that it becomes my singular focus. Social responsibility is a broad focus while a personal calling is narrow. We need to balance the “other” issues that God calls us to while we continue to pursue our God given calling.
My role models for Pastors are not the best. In my years as a Youth Director and as an Associate Pastor I think I have seen them all. First is the dictatoral style of pastor that is literally IN CHARGE. You cross him/her and there is trouble. This style of pastor has a tight reign on the vision, Session, staff, and everything that has to do with church. Then you have the laid back pastor. That lets you do pretty much whatever you want to do as long as they do not catch grief from it. I can go on and on. Then you have the ego driven pastor, absent pastor, clueless pastor, spiritual pastor, emerging pastor, transforming pastor, team based pastor, and so forth. This is not to say that these are bad, but each has its own pro’s and con’s.When I graduated from Seminary I thought I had a good idea of what a pastor was. That was until I got humbled. Going into ministry I thought to myself how great, wonderful, and spiritual I was. Then I ran into the meat grinder of ministry. It has nothing to do with the actual ministry that I was involved in, but that being a pastor is more than administration, worship services, staff meetings, and all the inner workings of the church. If I spent all the time that was needed to prepare worship, sermons, and administration the congregation would bolt. That is because people don’t come to church because we can pay all the bills, have shiny railings, or the best put together worship service. There is something more: they are cared for.The last month has been a learning time for me. One would think that being pastoral is what I learned in school. It is actually, but I think I missed something in between getting mad at the vending machine for not having the right snacks and committing the order of worship to memory. I am sure they taught it but I did not digest it. Being a pastor is about being there for the congregation. Last week I sat with one of my elders in his backyard. He spent a good hour showing and teaching me about how to prune trees/shrubs the “asian way”. Me, being a bad asian did not know that the amount of branches need to be an odd or even number. Oh well, learn something new everyday. For a good two hours we sat on a stone bench that he built on the hill above his yard. I did not even bring up issues of the church. We had a good conversation about HIS life and background. Stories about how he can to be the person that was sitting next to me. At the end he looked at me and was genuinely glad that I came to pray for him and care about his life. There was no agenda for the visit, just to be pastoral to him. Pastoral, nothing about the administration of the church, order of worship, or complaints about the contemporary service. Just caring for a man in the congregation.That visit alone recharged me and made me enjoy what I do. Would not change what I do for the world.
It is the first week of school for my kids. With that all the crazy drivers are back. In the Oxnard School District we are on a year round cycle so really summer break was only a week long. Apparently in that one week everyone forgot how to drive. Crossing the street today my daughters both almost got hit by cars in different times, and it was only five minutes apart. I usually go to walk them across the street because of the “crazy’s” and today was a good reminder why. This lady in a blue Ford Focus almost ran over my daughter who was in the crosswalk walking, the lady just sped through OVER THE SPEED LIMIT. Now the question is what should I do. Maybe talk to the principal or maybe complain to the cops (yes, I know I will be the on caught). But it is worth my kids safety. Jenn was telling me as I was venting to her that my youngest rolling backpack was hit by a driver earlier this week. Uhhh…. I know I am not suppose to be yelling and screaming at people in cars but that probable would have done it. It is not like we are jaywalking across the street but using a DESIGNATED CROSSWALK! Come on people is it that important for you to zoom out of the school that you are willing to risk the safety of kids?
So day 1… and all is well in the quarantine zone. Never mind that it is 12:30 a.m. and I am sitting watching 3..2..1..Penguins for the sixth time in the past three hours. Yes each disk is 30 minutes long and I am on the sixth repeat. Someone help me now. I don’t think I can make it through the night.Anyway, Hunter was diagnosed with Mouth and Hand Disease. I know you are going whaa?? I did the same thing until today. Apparently it is something that is going around the area right now. Great. If I could I would run… not really but I think that I am getting symptoms right now. I have that phobia, anything you got I swear that I have it worse. So basically we are quarantined or at least Hunter is for the next couple days to a week. How fun it is for a three year old to feel sick, let alone, quarantined.What makes this even better is that I have a 10 page General Assembly paper due on Monday, preaching twice on Sunday (2 different sermon), Hebrew midterm on Thursday, and working on the relocation of the church. Plenty of time. All normal comings and goings from the Chow clan.
A show that I often watch on the Discovery Channel is called It Takes a Thief. It is about two former burglars breaking into people’s houses and showing them how unsecured their house is. In the end they give them a full security makeover. Sure the premise is to show how to be safe and give great principles on protecting your home. But the flip side it shows how to break into houses. Maybe it can be an alternate career if this whole pastor thing does not work. Or I can be a Tuna Wrangler. All this is showing me is that I watch way too much Discovery Channel.
Anyway, today I helped (not alone) a congregation member “secure” her home. It was interesting going through someones home looking for ways to break in, thus securing it. In a couple of hours we secured the widows and re-keyed the locks, all for under forty bucks. And on a budget too, I got skills there. Something about it was James Bond-esque. Or not. I wonder if I should put that on my resume under “Other Skills”.
Experienced Pastor with skill in preaching, teaching, discipleship, and breaking and entering skills.
Maybe I will leave that out.