The other day I announced—to great fanfare—that I’m considering a return to ministry. And by “great fanfare”, I mean that at least three people took notice of it, while the rest of the world gave a sort of meh-ish shrug.
I’ve been working at Yelp for the past six months, and I don’t plan to leave that position. I love this job. That being said, I’ve felt the subtle tug on my heart to return to the pastorate grow into a full blown yank, and it’s time for me to accept the inevitable: the Church, while not an entity I’ve always agreed with on a number of social issues, is a vital part of who I am. I’ve taken nearly three years off from most things church, with a few visits thrown in since moving to Phoenix, but nothing really consistent. This hasn’t been an indication of the depth of my faith, or lack thereof, rather it’s more so been out of self-preservation. Lately, my interactions with Western Christianity™ can be summed up as:
It’s a funny thing when you’ve spent so much of your adult life working in ministry and suddenly aren’t. Since leaving and then moving away to a new land filled with new people, I’ve kept my previous vocation under wraps in a sort of subconscious way. I don’t care that people know about my past, but I avoid bringing it up because I don’t really thing it’s all that interesting. When the subject is broached, I typically get a reaction along the lines of, “Really?! YOU were a pastor?!”
This makes me feel good and bad at the same time. A sense of pride rushes over me that people would see it as surprising to find out about me. As in, I’m not so different from them, which tends to be the opposite of how a lot of Christians posture themselves. On the other side of that token is the feeling of guilt. Is my outward living so abhorrently off-kilter that they could never see me as a “man of the cloth”, a position that requires upright character and moral fortitude?
It’s no sure thing that I’ll even find a place to serve again, let alone full-time. Would I like to make it my sole vocational focus once more? Honestly, yes. I was at my best when involved with a community of people working out their faith and understanding of the world around us. I was at my best while having discussions with teenagers about the nitty gritty of growing up and starting to understand just a snippet who they were as people. I was at my best when working with other people in ministry that I didn’t actually agree with on a whole lot of issues, but still found common ground for love and acceptance to be the glue that holds the community together.
I know that I’ll probably disagree on a number of things with most churches, theologically and socially. However, I know that this is something the Church as a whole needs: diversity in thought. No, I don’t see myself as any sort of certain catalyst for change; that wishful thinking disappeared with my youth. In fact, I would say this diversity in thought is also something I need as much as anyone else. I don’t want to insulate myself with just my liberal-minded peeps. I don’t want to agree with everyone, and I don’t want everyone agreeing with me (although, duh, they’d be better off). I don’t want to only hear the same rhetoric that has me nodding in agreement every time. I need the accountability of my brothers and sisters who disagree with me in order to grow.
The next steps are going to be difficult, and the task of finding the right church will perhaps be arduous. I doubt there are many churches that would be open to someone like me who has taken so much time off ministry, let alone has the type of opinions I do. Perhaps that’s arrogant of me to think. Perhaps I’m not giving them enough credit.
I hope that’s the case.