‘From the Lips of God’

Terry Walton


I Was Thinking…

I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s book entitled Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness.  I wish I had read it 25 years ago when it was first published.  I think it is a book that every United Methodist Pastor should read.  He writes “Somehow we American Pastors, without really noticing what was happening, got our vocations redefined in the terms of American careerism.  We quit thinking of the parish as a location for pastoral spirituality and started thinking of it as an opportunity for advancement.” (P.20)  Ouch!  I confess that I resemble that comment more than I’d like to admit.

We all begin with a deep sense of call and somewhere along the way, if we’re not careful we begin to be ‘needy’ for affirmation that can only be defined in our minds by increasing statistics with larger and larger places of ministry...advancement!   If/when this doesn’t happen we then think less of ourselves which can lead to a “what the heck…I don’t care” attitude toward people, church and life.  Have you ever known someone who was bitter toward the end of their ministry?  Usually their bitterness could be found rooted in an entitled frame of reference that is spewed forth in anger that’s been simmering in an “I haven’t been treated fairly” soup.

Peterson continues “what I want to say is that the pastoral vocation is not a glamourous vocation…Pastoral work consists of modest, daily, assigned work.  It is like farm work.  Most pastoral work involves routines similar to cleaning out the barn, mucking out the stalls, spreading manure, pulling weeds.  This is not, any of it, bad work in itself, but if we expect to ride glistening black stallion in daily parades and then return to the barn where a lackey grooms our steed for us, we will be severely disappointed and end up being horribly resentful.” (P. 16)

A former church member once said to me… “I wish I had a job like yours…where you get to hang out with Christians all the time.”  Boy, did he not get it?  While there are many blessings in Pastoral ministry…there is a whole lot of that other stuff too.  And quite frankly some of the meanest folks I’ve met claimed to be ‘Christians’.

All of this to say to clergy and laity alike…we’re in this thing called ministry together.  We need each other for encouragement and for accountability.  We all have a calling…just different designs.  Let’s all stay close to our call from God…for that is the best way I know to grow into a holiness together.

I’ve decided that I desire to hear only one affirmation and that affirmation will be enough for advancement.  That affirmation I desire is “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  I want to hear it from the lips of God.  How about you?

Always Thinking…


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