I was once a pastor. I hope you can find some wisdom in my journey. This is the final installment in a four-part series.
For many Christian churches, October is considered “Pastor Appreciation Month.” As someone who served in pastoral ministry for a number of years, I thought it might be helpful to share my story. If you haven’t read it already, you can find the rest of my story in the posts Why I Was Once a Pastor, Why I Am No Longer a Pastor, and Why I Still Am a Pastor.
WHY I MAY NEVER BE A “PASTOR” AGAIN
There is a certain freedom of ministry without “official” credentials. The gifting and calling of God is irrevocable (Romans 11:29), but the credentials certainly are not. My ministry has always been somewhat on the edge of things, walking the fine line between orthodoxy and heresy, and as a result, although I love the Assemblies of God, I have never quite fit anywhere.
That has been difficult for me. I long for consistency, stability, and clear guidelines; but in reality, the life of faith doesn’t always follow the rules. My spiritual growth has come from many streams of the Christian faith, and my desire to follow God has taken me again and again outside my comfort zone. As a result, I have had to rely heavily on the Word of God as my standard. And, I’ve had to be open to the revelation God has given others in the faith. Even those whom I strongly disagree with doctrinally.
Sometimes, this makes for uncomfortable bedfellows! I am neither a Progressive Christian, nor am I a Fundamentalist. At best, I might describe myself as an uneasy Evangelical, committed to the truths Evangelicalism proclaims, but increasingly uneasy with Evangelicalism as a social movement.
I love Reformed doctrine, though there is much I disagree with! I have learned much about prayer from the Orthodox faiths, as well as the Episcopalians. The Lutherans have taught me about the practical embodiment of faith, and the Christian mystics have taught me about the depth of God’s love throughout the ages.
The Puritans are my heroes, but so are Dr. Martin Luther King, Albert Schweitzer, and Jürgen Moltmann whose theologies lie far outside the consistent, clear, faith that I grew up embracing. Things aren’t always that clear for me anymore, yet I have fundamental doctrines I cling to tenaciously. Doctrines I would willingly die for if necessary. Doctrines I believe are necessary if one is to truly call themselves a Christian.
These seven summarize my fundamental doctrinal beliefs:
- The Virgin Birth
- The Reliability of Scripture
- The Deity of Jesus Christ
- The Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross
- The Actual, Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ
- The Triune Nature of God
- The Soon Return of Jesus Christ Bodily to the Earth
However, I make room for those who disagree, who make me strongly uncomfortable, who cause me to question their faith, and even deny some aspects of these seven truths I proclaim. I’ve learned to trust God with the journey, knowing He knows best the journey others must take, and trusting that He alone can guide us all to the right place in the end.
I don’t claim to determine who is headed for Heaven, and who is setting course for Hell; although I might strongly suggest which path I think you’ve prioritized. I will still call sin, sin, but I won’t condemn you by your sin; as I hope you won’t condemn me by mine.
After all, there is much to disgust me in the life of Abraham, Lot, Moses, Samson, and David, but God has counted them as righteous. Who am I to judge otherwise (Romans 4:3, Hebrews 11)?
This freedom from title gives me the opportunity to love. It allows me to accept others as they are, to share my understanding of the Christian faith, while trusting the Holy Spirit with the journey of others. As uncomfortable as that may be, it is the journey that I am called to walk. And, it may be the journey that keeps me from officially being a “Pastor,” even though I am credentialed by Heaven; guided by God.