He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults — to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (CEB)
I knew since I was a teenager that I wanted to be a pastor. I remember the thrill and excitement I felt the first time I read scripture in worship at age 12, I also remember my for the bible, the church, and people. There were many along the way that encouraged me and called gifts out of me that I did not think I had. After college and seminary, I could not wait to be a pastor, to lead God’s people into their being about God’s kingdom in their community.
It did not take long to figure out that God’s people were a little spoiled. People did not seem open to hear about being led into God’s kingdom. I was there, I was getting paid, “we are glad you want to be about those things, that’s why we have you here,” many would say. When I took part in a community organizing project around immigration issues someone pulled me aside to remind me that they paid my salary and that I was there “for them.”
It has been almost 6 years since these rude awakenings to the realities of the pastoral office. There have also been many amazing moments of leading into God’s kingdom and becoming Christ’s presence of healing love at important times. But I am constantly aware that for many of those members of my community I seem to be their cop-out for being about their own discipleship.
The reading reminded me of something I know and try to practice. I have been given gifts for pastoral ministry and teaching so that I can help the body in their kingdom living. So that I can help all become “mature adults.”
As a father of three I know that many times it would be so much easier to do things for my kids. It would be quicker and the task would get accomplished as I wanted to. If I do that though the kids will not learn, will not become response-abled people, and I would not have accomplished the most important task of parenting.
In the same way I must resist the temptation of being the “paid disciple” for the people I serve. I must instead walk alongside constantly reminding the community of its story, and calling the community to its task as God’s people. This takes more time, more investment, and many times more heartache but in the end that’s what God has called me to.