I had one of those moments of clarity last week. A friend had driven in to share with our Mission’s Team how to get involved with what we call in the Vineyard, a “Missions Partnership.” All was going well, people were asking questions, and I was enjoying watching our team have an exchange with a veteran mission’s guy. Then it happened.
He turned to each person and asked why they were interested in missions. One by one they answered. Some were nurses who had been out on the field using their discipline to help others. Some were contractors, builders, who like to see things created, especially for those who have very little. Others were simply compassionate people who love to share Christ by meeting necessary needs. They also shared their experiences, as many had been to various countries before. I didn’t expect him to actually ask me. After all, I’m a freakin’ pastor! But he did.
Now I have been to Thailand twice, Singapore, Portugal, and a few other countries, but mostly for surfing. But what came out of my mouth surprised me. I said, “I want a spiritually healthy church. We can’t be healthy thinking all there is to our faith can be found in our church. We need exposure to our brothers and sisters in other cultures and countries if we have any chance of really growing up spiritually.”
Okay, maybe you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal?” Well, I would have normally answered with a comment that voiced a concern for the poor people out there who haven’t heard the Gospel, and who need food, shelter, and water. Now that’s all well and good. But when I said I what I did, I realized I really am a pastor.
Go ahead, laugh. I’ve been at this well over 30 years and you would think I would have settled that, huh? But one of my complaints to God over these many years has been that when this all started for me, I just wanted to share Jesus with one more person. That was it. That was the way my life with Christ started, and somehow it has ended up with me pastoring all these many years. There’s a lot of crap that comes with pastoring, and there have been times when I’ve lamented that “crap.” It goes something like this, “Lord, I just wanted to share you with one more person. Now I have to look at budgets, prepare sermons (which I’ve come to love), pay bills, listen to complaints, smile when I want to throw up or throw down, and sometimes I’m not sure how this happened. Did I take a wrong turn somewhere?”
But last week I heard God come out of my mouth. Well, I heard the calling of God come out of my mouth. My concern is for my church (yes, I said “my” church). I really desire that we grow up, mature, become a community of faith that can not only survive hard times, but thrive through them. I want this community of faith to have a deep appreciation and affection for what God is doing elsewhere in His Kingdom. My reason for being there last week was as a pastor. I love my church, this wonderful group of diverse people from so many walks of life. It’s funny. I’m from an Irish family that has resided in the south since the 1700’s, but my church is made up of 94% northerners. God’s humor? Or God’s calling? Funny…some of us just take longer to obtain that firm grasp of the obvious.