Some Thoughts on Life and Ministry

I am a pastor. It is both my vocation, and it is my life’s calling. I would say that it is who I am. I would say that you don’t choose to pastor because if you do you won’t last long at it. It is not like when you were in high school and they had a Career Day so you walk in the gym and see the pastor table and think “that looks like a lot of fun.”

Pastoring calls you. It works best that way because it is just so challenging, hard, and at times discouraging. Pastoring is a burden but it is also a great blessing. I love what I do. I have tried to walk away from it but just keeps calling me back. It is like a fire burning in my bones. A fire that I cannot extinguish.

I would note that as I look back on my life there are a lot of events and circumstances that have helped me in pastoring. I would note that growing up Roman Catholic has helped and informed me to understand religious traditions, liturgy, and so much more. Ironically, I would add that another great resource for me as a pastor was growing up as one of nine children. I grew up in NE Ohio in a very Irish Catholic family with lots of cousins and lots of chaos.  I didn’t know it at the time but as it turns out it was excellent training for me. I am sandwiched between two older sisters and a brother and three younger sisters and two younger brothers. I should note that my sister Nancy is the true middler. She was number five – four on each side. She was always a stickler for details when she was with us, and she would want me to note that fact. We lost her and my sister Marykaye back in 2016 to cancer.

I grew up in the space between the oldest, the first born, and the youngest. I acquired a perspective on life from the middle. It has proven to be a great resource for me in understanding life and ministry.

It is interesting to note that humanity exists in the middle. We are in the in between. We are made in the image and likeness of God and yet we stand in the middle – between the creator and the mandate to steward all that God has made. The psalmist cries out from this middle position and says, “you have made us a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:3 The psalmist seems to understand that we humans are both created by God and image bearers of God in creation. We are both created and yet we are also creators. We are finite and yet we are eternal. We live in a space between the known and the unknown. The familiar and the unfamiliar. The secure and the insecure. We exist in the middle.

Jesus lived in the middle. Listen to 2 Timothy 2:5-6

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,** who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

I would also note that Paul describes this middle place when he uses the phrase “the already and the not-yet”. Paul says we live in the middle of the already and the not yet. Look at these examples:

-       already adopted in Christ (Romans 8:15), but not yet adopted (Romans 8:23);

-       already redeemed in Christ (Ephesians 1:7), but not yet redeemed (Ephesians 4:30);

-       already sanctified in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2), but not yet sanctified (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24);

-       already saved in Christ (Ephesians 2:8), but not yet saved (Romans 5:9);

-       already raised with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), but not yet raised (1 Corinthians 15:52).

So, what does all this mean? It means that we live in tension. We live in the middle. We live by faith in Christ. We have spiritual blessings that are ours already. And yet we are fully aware that full enjoyment of these blessings is not yet ours. We live in the middle. We minister in the middle. We are right now in between the already and the not yet. To me it means that God has uniquely prepared all of us for a ministry in the in between – in the face of uncertainty. We live in a time of great uncertainty, and we get to model, teach, and live out the gospel in these times.

We live in the middle. But just in case you haven’t noticed there is a lack of middle ground in our world. We are pressured to take sides. And in the process of choosing sides we isolate ourselves from those who need to hear the message of Jesus the most. In reality, Jesus calls us to minister and be in the middle - the middle of birth and death, between stability and change. Between the known and the unknown. Between what is and what is possible because the love, the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ abounds and is available to us all.

As a follower of Jesus, we end up in the middle and we get to speak hope, purpose, and meaning into the uncertainty, ambiguity of life because everyone else around us is living in the middle. Hopefully we get to a point where others may see God’s peace and wholeness. And to see it prevails in the lives around us. God is shaping us to serve him today and tomorrow and for all eternity. God has a plan. A purpose. For us in this period of time for such a time as this.

Some of the above material was adapted from and inspired by Wynand DeKock, On Being in the Middle.

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash