The focus of pastoral leadership is on the people because all Christians, not church leaders as such, are the primary ministers of the gospel. It is the church as a whole that is God’s “chosen race, royal priesthood, and holy nation” (2 Pet. 2:9). Pastoral leaders serve to build up the body of Christ, so that the entire church can bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to a very broken world.
Christopher A. Beeley in Leading God’s People: Wisdom from the Early Church for Today
I was blessed with a childhood church that was fruitful, alive, and making a difference. Worship was vibrant, exciting, and God’s Spirit was palpable. In Sunday School, VBS, and other formational gatherings we learned the story through bible drills, songs, and drama. Our times of fellowship were filled with music, food, and a genuine sense of what it meant to be a community. Our mission was rooted in the neighborhood that we lived in with a clear understanding that there was also a larger world in need of Jesus Christ.
This is not to say that it was perfect. As the “son of the pastor” I knew well the struggles of what it meant to lead into that kind of community. But I would say that it was that community and my father, their pastor, who first “called.”
Dad called ministry “out of me” in the ways that he lived his own pastoral life. In his commitment to leading God centered worship with integrity & passion. His hunger to help the congregation and the community find healing, wholeness, and love. He “called me” by taking me with him when he did his visitation rounds or went to help someone in need.
He modeled a “way” of being “pastor” that still guides my way today.
When dad’s ministry brought us from Puerto Rico to Louisiana I was blessed to find others who continued “calling.” My now father-in-law Ron Perry, helped shape me in the importance of discipleship, prayer, and ministering to those who could easily be forgotten. He gave me opportunities to preach, teach, and lead. He too believed that at its core pastoral leadership is about “building the body.”
In college when I was ready to leave God and the church behind dad again reminded me of my call. I needed desperately to be reminded and dad’s “contact” with a United Methodist pastor began to shape the final stages of my “surrender” to this vocation.
Don Ross taught me to persevere, to lean on God’s love, and to be a humble servant to God’s people. He called me to gifts I did not know I had, and if he would not have “pushed” me to preach and called that a gift in my life, I would probably be a professor now, not a pastor.
At the time it seemed like I had enough “calling” and I had said yes! But God had other companions in my journey of faith to continue “calling:” Donn Ann Weber who believed I had the gifts to pastor the “real church” with its struggles, challenges, and possibility; Don Saliers, Barbara Day Miller, Steffen Losel, Tom Long, Tom Frank & Gail O’Day who were more than “seminary professors” but truly challenged me and called out of me this pastoral life through their example, questions, and teaching; Francey Hooton, Carole Cotton Winn, John Williams, Craig Gilliam, and my peers in my ordination process who continued shaping my call through their witness, counsel, and patience; Kami & Casey Scarbrock, Larabee and Patrick Thompson, and Heather and Danny Smith, who have been with me for over a decade and have put up with the early bumps on the journey; and Garett Thompson, who in joining the communion of saints, kept me on the right path.
God is still calling me. In fact he calls me each and everyday to this way of life, to this service to the church, to this “building up of the body.” I live out this journey with key partners in this covenant life: my wife Shannon who reminds me everyday of what it means to love, my brother Josh Hale who still pushes me to be a pastoral theologian, Sarah Shoup, Katie McKay Simpson, Donnie Wilkinson, Brady Whitton, Leslie Stephens, and Stephen Fife who are faithful covenant partners, friends, and “guides” in my continued journey.
This fall at Exploration 2013 we are gathering in Denver to discern. God has been calling all along and has given you partners in the journey. As you hear their voices know that it is God who is using them to call you to communal discerment through communal life. If those witnesses see gifts of “building up the body” in you, join us this November as we continue hearing God “calling us on the journey.”