On going off probation

On Sunday I will be ordained. Practically, this means that I get to put Rev in front of my name, next to the Dr that I never put there either.

So what changes on Sunday? I go off probation.

You see, 4 years ago I was licensed as a minster. It meant that I could perform weddings and funerals and other parts of church life as a pastor. It also meant that I had some skills in ministry, but that I was still in a waiting period, waiting for me, for the leaders around me, for our congregation, for God to confirm that being a pastor is what I am, as much as what I do. Sunday, we recognize that confirmation.

It’s been a long, long time coming.

Some people get a telephone call from God. Others hear a
voice or see a vision. For these people there is a single simple announcement:
“you will be My witness.” This call becomes their passion. It is the cloud by
day and the fire by night that goes before them guiding them through school,
through seminary, through life.

Some people, on the other hand, walk through their lives
following God and slowly have the fog lift and realize: I have been His
witness. So it is with me.

I have had in my head and my mouth words of “I can’t” and
“I’m not” and “I couldn’t”. I can’t witness, I’ll never be an elder, I’m not
what a pastor is, everyone else is really doing this and I’m just pretending.
But I have slowly begun to realize in my brain what has been true in my heart
and my actions for awhile. I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I use many technologies and images. I work in many settings,
I miss many opportunities and waste much time. But God has called me to share
in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, and my words and work must be rooted in
this: be reconciled to God. 

By “must” I used to mean “ought”. Increasingly, it is clear
to me that it isn’t “ought” as much as it is that I have no choice.

In His graciousness, God did not give me this call at the
beginning of my education or my career when I could have argued with it, for
that is how I am. I would have said to God, “If I must, but I’ll do it for all
the wrong reasons. I’ll minister because of obligation.”

Instead, He has led me along the road of life looking at
many options. I have passed them by, lingering slowly at times as I considered
them and then finally realizing that I am not what they represent. I have
looked closely at being a scholar, a professor, a senior administrator in
higher education, a pastor (for the wrong reasons), a broadcaster, a
videographer, a consultant. Always I finally had the sense that “No, as good as
that is, it isn’t fully me.” Eventually, yet always saying, “Lord, what do you
really have for me?” Until now. I have come to the point where I lift my eyes
and look back and look around and realize that there is nothing left. I am, and
have been for much longer than I have realized (though those around me have
known), a pastor.

I ache for souls. I can video or not, write or not, create
or not. I cannot, however, for any significant time not try to figure out how
to help people understand God. Because God keeps calling me and compelling me
to try.

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9 responses to “On going off probation

  1. Hello Reverend Doctor!

    IMO, your ordination is not permitting you to do something, but recognizing what you’ve already been doing. That’s the way it should be! You’ve ministered in my life on and off since I was 18, first as my professor and now as my pastor. These formal positions opened the door for ministry, but the ministry itself was because of your availability to let God work through you (and in you).

    Praying, though confident, that tomorrow will be a great day for you and the whole FMC family. Wish I could be there.

  2. Well my friend. I am proud to know you. Many congratulations to you and I too send along my prayers as you receive this confirmation. All the best.

  3. It fits you like a glove, Jon. I have never had a pastor who fit the definition so completely. Welcome to your skin.

  4. …and that’s why you’re my pastor.
    Encourager, inspirer, counsellor, friend…God bless you.

  5. my friends, I am grateful for the ways you shape me, for a Dr is shaped by the courses he takes, but a pastor is shaped by the hearts that touch his.

  6. this was a powerful post to read
    i am happy in my heart that chris has someone like you in his life.

    the closest i have ever come to understanding god was through Mr. Rodgers. 🙂 I mean that with all sincerity.

    i’m happy to have you as a neighbor

  7. Jon, congratulations! Your heart has touched so many already, and you continue to touch more.

    And, I love your writing. You explain yourself so very well. It is a joy to read, and feel like I’m sharing it with you.

  8. Great post Jon. My call happened early and clearly – but it’s taking until now to work out anyway. So, different paths but the same desire! Congratulations!

  9. keep on blogging you got good things to say, insprire me to write also. who said this was it Ben Franklin– “evil exist because too many good people do nothing..” You are doing.