Tuesday, November 23, 2010
For the first time I can now speak with some authority on the benefit of a longer pastorate. Previous to this my lengthiest stint was a mere five years. I'm not sure of the current statistics regarding pastoral residencies, but I suspect that there are still a sizeable number of men who take calls after only a few years. Perhaps they do this looking for that 'perfect parish' where in-fighting is unknown, where the pews are always packed, and the customs represent pristine Lutheran practice. In my earlier years I suspect I entertained such dreams. It's not that I have now become cynical and dour. No, age and time have simply taught me a more realistic picture of the church. As a shepherd I have come to recognize that we minister in the context of a fallen world, and that being "in Christ" represents for the shepherd a commitment to suffer with and for your flock. I also realize that meaningful ministry often comes with hard-fought relationships, as you live and struggle with people through the various milestones of life: birth, death, disease, marriage, graduation, and the list goes on. I'm still unpacking my experiences, and sense that I can evaluate this time best only in retrospect. That said, I know that these ten years have been some of the richest of my life. Not the easiest or always the most enjoyable, but the richest. We grow not in leisure, but in challenge.