An Oft Untold Story
There’s an untold story in Christendom that doesn’t get much light at the end of the pastoral ministry tunnel. And it’s a sad one, I think. Though it doesn’t necessarily start out that way. For it is the tale of those who recognize the call of God upon their lives and set out as very “gung-ho” vessels eager to contribute to the fight for the souls of men and women. They are comprised of individuals either privileged to garner support for the preparation they will need for enlistment; those who weather massive school loan debt because of the call that seems like a constant fire shut up in their bones; as well as potential leaders without the academic pedigree, but who have that something special about them that everyone knows just by being in their presence. And with all three of these shiny new toys in the body of Christ, there is a confirmation from the particular ecclesiastical cloth of which they were hatched that seem to initially both recognize, endorse and even send them off with their spiritual guns ablaze. But it is here that the story gets somewhat murky along the way I’m afraid.
Failure to Launch
For instance, the now emboldened man or woman of God all of a sudden begins to voice their own thoughts on the spiritual matters at hand. They are somehow seeking to join the “top brass” in the discussion of all matters that effect the church and to find their place in its noble mission. And so they begin to “in love” voice their litany of Socratic questioning trying to find answers they assume all are wrestling with. They are those who simply want to contribute to the collective church conversation and be a part of its universality both as those who are accountable and as those who serve; somehow endeavoring to become co-equal in the journey of faith and and its propagation, so help them God. Equal at least in the sense that theirs is a voice to be heard; while at the same time understanding their ears need equal attention to others older and more tenured who have journeyed much farther on the most difficult path. And yet it is at about this particular time that the story often takes a different turn I’m afraid. For many will often be accused of being a novice irrespective of their time in the collective fold, but never quite “ready for primetime” to the one in which they now find themselves as the “odd man out”. Or better yet, because of their own giftedness, they are cast off as mere rebels and perhaps even uncommitted and bastardized sons. And yet all the while, there remains hidden the perceived threat among the ecclesiastical gatekeeper’s club. A hazard to their very own status quo and fiefdom that up until now has kept them somewhat fat, sassy and gainfully employed. And once the threat finds equally strong voices in unison, these potential powerful soldiers coming alongside the church of Jesus Christ are now cast off; or they simply throw in the towel, give up the fight and say, “I quit”! And they have found out the hard way that there is not much room for even gracious mavericks in the Kingdom of God (men).
We Shouldn’t Have Been Surprised
But you know I guess you and I shouldn’t have been surprised really. Somehow, we think that as the church, we are so much more enlightened than those stubborn Israelites groveling around in the wilderness, or those gosh darn Pharisees and Sadducees missing Jesus by a country mile! Those of whom never lifted their pointed finger to ease the burden of those seeking to find rest for their souls from the ecclesial intelligentsia who were to lead the way. And yet oftentimes we scurry off, not extracting lessons from these leaders of what would have been “the church” of Jesus day. We forget that power timelessly has the wherewithal both to corrupt and to cause narcissistic and even entitled tendencies the masses don’t recognize until the pastor and the choir director have checked into the Hilton for choir practice! Or when young male and female acolytes are given “extra” duties not listed in the church bulletin! But perhaps even more subtle and somewhat dicey, are those who continue to bypass the next line of leaders because they think the show couldn’t possibly go on without them. The result being mass produced imagery of themselves on satellite screens from here to Timbuktu! For indeed the praise of men is an aphrodisiac gift that seems to keep on giving yet evenly extracting more from them, as well as from the congregants who can’t ever seem to get enough.
While Waiting for the Church World to Change
But back to our oft untold story. A story whose unfolding chapters continue in tragedy in some, and spiritual retreat in exiled anonymity for others. Yet the latter are men and women of God who hold on to the hope that while yieldedly resting under the microscope of God on the sidelines, they are still feebly holding on to what was once entrusted. Somehow quietly refusing to please the ever-visible men, but instead preferring the hopeful validation of their invisible God. They are those who shun empty flattery or the potential of “ill-gotten gain”, resigned to wait in anticipative uncertainty for a renewed call that has long lay dormant while they watch, wait and listen. And yet sometimes, like Rip Van Winkle, they wake up 20 years later and something has changed.
The Emergent Anomaly of Humble, Apostolic Leaders
You know a lot of people tend to the throw the apostle word around a lot these days. Some have scary tones to them, lacking the “small a” in its spelling while also adding “more of the same” to the ground we’ve already covered. And yet others emerge gifted; yet also broken, humble, and equally holy; ready and able to empower others to exponential multiplication of themselves (2 Tim. 2:2). They are about the business of the church period. They are ecumenical and cooperative. They look for strategic engagement with the world rather than retreat from it. They look for movements that are as deep as they are wide, while shunning attractional models which only create “mega” spectator sports. And they are those who care less about a title attributed to them and more about the fruit that comes from their gracious tutelage. And instead what we find, are men and women who open gates rather than close them, constantly keeping their watchful eye out for the placement of gifted yet broken leaders at their newly appointed battle stations. And though I’ve often wondered just how I missed these “Johnny come lately” leaders’ existence by virtue of the circles I ran with once upon a time. Yet in retrospect, I’m glad at least to have finally encountered one who seems to be opening wide the door again. And so I guess there is at least a modicum of truth here to be learned. For it seems that time does indeed heal all wounds. Even the faithful wounds of gatekeepers.