Probably, the concept that fascinated me most in my seminary experience was that of the connectedness of the church. Wait.
Before you stop reading (I was tempted there for a second, too), this is not a few paragraphs indulging in irrelevant church-talk. I am, rather, here going to take a moment to consider an idea that, even after spending the first 20+ years of my life in church, I had never seriously contemplated. In seminary culture, it was part of the vernacular. In the real world, I would have to experience it for myself.
I’ll tell you a quick story. If you’ll indulge the presumptuousness of my ego, then I’ll tell you why my story matters for your story. But you’ll eventually see, if I’m successful, that this crappy little article is simply an attempt to encourage you to find where you fit in at New Kirk Presbyterian.
My quick story: So I hit a point in the become-a-pastor process when, honestly, it sickened my belly to imagine that “this” is it; that “this” is all there is to it; that “this” is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life. (There’s not enough paper in the world for one to unpack “this,” nor am I sure I really want to do that.) It always seemed like that church-talk word, “call,” the one we mindlessly throw around and away like extra condiment packets, referred to an internal matter—you know Jesus’ talk of closets and Tom T. Hall’s talk of “Me and Jesus, got our own thing goin’.” Short story shorter, I told my presbytery committee, whose purpose was to walk with me through the whole become-a-pastor process, that I was through fooling with all “this.” I planned to finish my seminary experience with a different degree, bail on the ordination process, and get out of the church, never looking back. Mind you, I had reached out to my most trusted friends and mentors. Answers were as varied as “Maybe your ‘call’ to ministry was just your actual point of getting saved, and you misunderstood it” to “Walk your own path and forget about all of the fallout.”
And it came to pass, as the days were accomplished that I should go up to the presbytery office for my annual consultation with my become-a-pastor committee, I began with a rehearesed statement that amounted to “I quit.” And they, non-rehearsed and as raw but beautiful as I’d ever heard, said, “Okay, but we’re not quite ready to quit you. We feel the ‘call’ is real.” Strangely, in that moment, I learned that “call” had very little to do with my Jesus closet and “our own thing goin’” and had everything to do with connectedness of the church. Here was a group of pastors and elders from various congregations throughout presbytery, taking valuable time out of their schedules to serve on this rather ridiculous committee, and they felt my “call” to ministry more than I. And they, at least in that moment and now forever in the eroded, pot-holed path leading always both somewhere and nowehere in my limited grasp on what could only be ever a series of unfortunate pastorates in Christ’s body (I, a thorn in his flesh), are the only reason my “call” story is still a thing.
This matters because it demonstrates, to me at least, the power of the connectedness of the church. No individual could have altered what was to be my inevitable “peace out.” And no individual did. The church, a Holy Ghost organism, however, did.
Connectedness of the church begins in the local church body. There is work, but that work only matters in the way it enhances our gathered worship. There is gathered worship, but that gathered worship only matters in the way it enhances our work.
Want in? Find a committee to which you feel “called.” God, through the church, will do the rest.