It strikes me as odd every time I run into a Christian who is envious or regretful that they didn’t enter the pastorate. Heck, I’ve even felt that feeling, the sense that whenever you hang around a lot of Christians you get the feeling that the consensus is that the only truly worth while occupation is one that is overtly and strictly a pulpit or missionary job, and that you somehow don’t have as much worth or weight unless there’s a Pastor of… in front of your name on your business card. While I’ve felt that, I usually quickly give my head a shake, let things rattle back to their proper positions and move on in life. But it troubles me that so many of us get stuck right there.
First of let me just start out by saying that those of you looking to get into an occupational battle over the merits of being employed by the church and missions in some capacity, you are barking up the wrong tree. I think being a pastor or missionary is (not having ever been one myself) HARD, selfless, demanding, relentless, and gutsy. Among other things it’s a willingness to stand directly in the crossfire of not only those around us walking around in a body who would see the message of the gospel shut up and shut down, but those not walking around at all. All for the sake of teaching others about the creator and administering the sacraments. Those who are called to do such a thing and who answer that call deserve our respect. It doesn’t mean they are infallible or are somehow closer to God even than the rest of us, but any guy who signs up for a job that has listed in the description: Attempt to teach an incorrigible group of people who will be more attentive to whether your tie is the appropriate color for the month than your message, reoccurring public speaking, and possibly being called upon to perform an exorcism or two within your career, certainly gets the tip of the cap from me.
What this is about is the rest of us gawking in awe of that guy, all thinking that we are doing diddly squat while he’s the only one doing anything that God cares about. It’s my assertion that even the least thoughtful atheist among us should be able to, even if only on an intellectual level, realize that any God who made this world, would not possibly have made it simply for pastors to have the only worthwhile jobs.
Wow I’m realizing that this post is going to sound like a real bash-fest of a few professions but I urge you to hear me out and understand that it’s nothing of the sort. I’m going to compare pastoring and mission work to teaching, as in a school setting. Teachers again are wonderful and needed, BUT, the only point that teaching, even as a concept, exists at all is because there is an implied DOING that comes after it. Now on an individual basis my mom could have been a teacher, and I could have grown up and gone to school to be a teacher, and my son could grow up and become a teacher as well and we could start a whole line of teachers. That would be fine and good. But societally speaking we need to be growing up to be doers, with the occasional teacher, with the gift for teaching, rising up among our ranks to help guide the rest of the young doers. And there needs to be A LOT more doers than teachers. That’s becomes even from strictly an economic sense there’s no point in teaching everyone to do all these things that never end up getting done. How awesome would it be if we all have a very sophisticated understanding of music theory but there were never any concerts to go to because nobody actually just sat down and played the stinking piano once in a while?
How much more would a God who created such an intricate and wonderful universe with so much to discover, and explore, and manipulate, and make, and experience be wasting His time to create us all just so that we can all learn the rules to the game real well and then die. At some point he wants us to actually roll the dice and play the game and set the rule book aside, only to glance back at it from time to time when confusion on how to play may hit. God made the world and set it up so that we could “play” and enjoy it and in turn honor and glorify him. Just like Parker Brothers or James Naismith God made this game with certain rules, not really designed to restrict us but more to help us get the most out of the game.
The problem is that we take what’s known as the Great Commission all wrong. We must go and make disciples of all the nations but it’s not because God wants us all to be good disciples for the sake of being disciples sitting on pillars having food and water brought to us. The thing is God wants us to play the game but half of us are walking around without the foggiest idea what the rules really are and are therefore not having fun with the game at all, and not earning any accolades for the game’s creator. Some of us are using loaded dice, and others drawing two cards from the deck instead of one and then forgetting to discard. Still others of us both agree where the three point line is but we argue over whether it counts for 2 points or 3. And then there are some of us out there playing just straight up jungle ball or 52 card pick up. Well to use a, weak at best and sacrilegious at worst analogy, pastors and missionaries are God’s way of getting the rule book out to everybody and allowing us to refresh our memories and even see the rules in a new light time and time again. But that analogy is my attempt to illustrate that just as any home grown American can tell you that while rulebooks and referees are important, essential even, the NFL is most certainly NOT about whistles and flags. It’s about the players, the first downs, the completions, the tackles. So in life, God created a world with REAL work to be done; bridges to be built, languages to be deciphered, oil to be drilled, migration patterns to be charted. We need to do all this under the context that God created it all, hid it with pleasure, and then allows us the pleasure of digging it all up again, of playing the game He created. To take our eye off the ball and the desire to score the winning point because we have whistle-envy is almost completely backward.
Missions should be funded. Pastors should be supported. Not because they are the only truly worthwhile professions but because they have the unique and honorable task of getting everybody on the same page so that all the “real” professions and vocations out there can stop quibbling over the rules and really rock the planet (and eventually the universe) with all that humanity can accomplish with God’s help. Just as a piano teacher sits silently in the back of the audience beaming as her student hits every note with impeccable timing in a recital or a concert, so should a pastor beam when his parishioner closes a deal in which he legitimately met the other party’s needs, while also getting what he needed, and all without any corruption.
Nobody would have gotten there without the teacher, but let’s be real. It’s not about the teacher. It’s not even really about the student. It’s about the show. Likewise we won’t get there without church, without pastors to teach and support us, and without missionaries to help bring the world on board. But lets be real. It’s not about the pastor. It’s not even really about us. It’s actually about God, and God doesn’t want us to learn for the sake of learning. He wants us to learn so we can go out and close that deal.