Several weeks back I was sitting down with a relatively new friend. Over a BLT and an IPA we exchanged some war stories about previous experiences in the church. She is a pastor, and I am a pastor, and we both have gone through the ringer (as virtually every pastor has… or will…).
If you know me, or have followed my journey, then you know a bit about what I went through a couple years ago. So I was telling her that story, coupled with a few other tidbits here and there, and eventually she looked at me, tilted her head slightly to the side, furrowed her brow just ever so slightly, and said,
Colby, you have been through a lot. You have been beaten and bruised by the church. Both the people and the institution. And yet here you are, sitting across from me, still saying that there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing. Why is that?
Another friend of mine, back when I was first exploring the possibility of moving to San Diego to join Missiongathering, expressed a similar query. Because he knew what had happened in my previous church, and he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why I would willingly go back in to the Lion’s Den.
I recall one of my professors in college, during a class on ministry-something-or-other, emphasizing to us would-be-ministers the following truth:
If you can do anything else… then do it.
In other words, if anything else gets you excited, or floats your boat, or resonates deep within your soul, or energizes you, or suits your passions and your dreams…. if there is any other vocational possibility out there for you, then you should do THAT, and not be a pastor. I don’t think he was trying to talk us out of becoming pastors. I think he was trying to give proper weight to the road that lay ahead of us, should we decide to follow the call to shepherd the people of God.
And now, 12 years after my prof uttered those words, I am firmly resolved that there is nothing else I want to do.
No matter how messy the church can get, I love her.
No matter how damaged I may get, or my family may get, I am committed to her.
No matter how difficult it can be or how impossible it may feel at times, I am in it.
I still believe that the church can be:
- the mechanism by which hope is sprinkled in this world,
- the avenue by which lost people can be found,
- the place where misfits and dreamers can discover purpose,
- the organism by which life, true life, abundant-life-found-only-in-Jesus, can be experienced,
- my home. your home. our home.
So yes, I know it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. And that’s okay. I get that.
But to quote one of my new favorite bands, Rend Collective Experiment, from their song “The Cost”:
I’ll walk the narrow road
’cause it leads me to You
I’ll fall but grace
Will pick me up again
I’ve counted up the cost
Oh I’ve counted up the cost
Yes I’ve counted up the cost
And You are worth it
I do not need safety
As much as I need You
But Lord You’re beautiful
I’ll chase You through the pain
I’ll carry my cross
’cause real love
Is not afraid to bleed
Yes, I have counted the cost.
I’ll fall again.
I’ll bleed again.
But Lord, you are worth it.
And so is your Bride.
(Check out the song. It’s marvelous.)
Also, I just read this from Rachel Held Evans, after writing up this post.
Her post is called “The Cost,” and it’s more awesome than this one. So go read that, too.