A Comfortable Calling

A few months back I was catching up with a friend. We hadn’t spoke in over a year. He asked me, “so how are things at your church? How are you enjoying being a pastor?”

I paused.

I get asked the question a lot. I’m always unsure of how to answer. If this is someone from my church, or someone with connections to my church, I always wonder if I need to tread carefully in how I answer. The last thing I need is someone else coming up to me saying, “so you’re not happy here eh?”

rolling hills sunset palouseIn my answer I go back and forth. Being a pastor is an incredible honor. Every day I get the opportunity to help point people to Jesus. Obviously it takes hard work to build trust and rapport with people in the congregation and surrounding community, but once that is established I have influence, something I never take lightly. This is what keeps me motivated. It’s why I read and write and continue to open up my homeā€”the calling is a burden and a joy.

Being a pastor is not a comfortable calling, though. Most pastors operate in an environment where there is a small expectation that they must suffer. Low pay. Long hours. Not even saying this is reflected in my situation, but I project this unsaid expectation into my behaviors, even though they’ve never been shared to me by anyone in my church body.

Should I be proud of playing golf at an expensive course? If I buy a car, is it cheap enough to not draw the side comment, “how did they afford that?” Have I sacrificed enough of myself this week?

I haven’t even mentioned that people do not trust pastors today like they did 25 years ago. In previous generations pastors were assumed to be worthy of respect, today the opposite is assumed true. Pastors now are likely to commit a significant moral failure, to hoard money, or to play a mischievous political game at their church that ends up damaging the church body. None of these are even close to likely with individual pastors, but perception is reality, right?

I wonder if I could still serve God well, while finding a more comfortable life in the process.

Certainly there are days and weeks when this vocation seems incredibly natural and comfortable, but for the most part, being a pastor has not been a comfortable calling. And this is where I think many of us have totally missed what calling is. On the surface, maybe I missed my calling, at least that’s the message you hear today about what calling is.

We want to line up all our preferences and our strengths, think of a job that mixes these things well, and that becomes our calling. Calling then becomes catered to our comfort.

Why is that Paul speaks over and over about boasting in weakness (read 2nd Corinthians 12)? Why does he seem to operate out of his weakness, despite being what many might call ineffective?

Calling goes beyond strengths, vocation, and comfort. It is the essence of God pointing off toward the horizon, saying, “follow me.”

And so you go. With your strengths and weaknesses. With your achievements and failures. With your family and friends. And you seek to make a journey of it, following the Light of life off into the wilderness of the unknown. That is calling.

[Image: Charles Bolin]