Here’s another blast from the past (last year) that answers the “why” and “how” I became a pastor.
Hard to believe, but five years ago this Sunday (July 17) was my ordination as a pastor in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod at Community Lutheran Church. It was an incredible day (Heidi says it is her all-time favorite day because she’s awesome), full of celebration and memories, and a welcome I can only believe because I was there.
It’s an interesting thing, ordination in the LCMS. In fact, it all has to do with submission, surrender and service. I hold no authority that hasn’t been granted to me. I’ve never taken any for myself. In fact, as some of you may know, this was defining for me in terms of my journey to becoming a pastor.
I was lost and broken, back in February 2007. I was teaching religion and philosophy classes at what is now Lone Star College in Houston, TX, but without a PhD, I knew there was not enough security to provide for my family. Heidi was making excellent money, but her growing desire was to stay at home as we neared the due date of our second child. I had been rejected from the PhD programs I had applied for, and I just kept feeling like I was meant for more than I was doing… but what?
When Daniel was born not breathing and nobody was sure if he would even survive, let alone what sort of life he would have, I was utterly broken. I numbly went to the hospital chapel and asked God what I was supposed to do.
I believe I received an answer – not some booming voice from on high, but a thought that grew in my mind until it was all I could think about: you’ve always tried to control everything – it’s time to be sent. I had no clue what that meant. So I asked my friend, Matt, who also happened to be my pastor.
What he suggested as part of an incredible conversation… was seminary. Whahuh? He explained how being a Lutheran pastor works (I didn’t want to be a pastor, but that’s a story for another time):
You have to have approval from your pastor. From the leadership of your church. From the district. Oh, and your family had better be on board! You have to apply to seminary, with essays and personal interview questions. You have to pack up and move your family across the country with no guarantee of income and a limit on how many hours you can work to provide for your family. And it costs money. A lot of money. Insane, right? But that’s not all! You have to pass your graduate level classes. Serve a church under the supervision of an active pastor. Do a year-long internship at an active congregation under the supervision of its pastor. You have to have the blessing of those two pastors, and then you must be certified for ordination by the seminary faculty (the degree I earned does not make you a pastor – some guys earned the degree but were not certified for ordination). Then, you are sent (remember that word?) to your first congregation, which has to call you (they have to offer you the job). Finally, the District President where you will be serving has to sign off on your ordination, which is performed by the laying on of hands by active pastors! If I were truly meant to be a pastor, I would have to surrender control, submit to church authority and be truly sent by the church.
And I’ll be honest: it was a scary thought, surrendering that kind of control… but it was also strangely liberating! In fact, it was hugely freeing to place my future in God’s hands by means of the hands of His Church! And I could not be more thankful that I did.
Five years after I was ordained and a full nine years after I began this journey (though, truth be told, I unknowingly began this journey long before that…), I continue to be amazed at the things God has blessed me to be able to do.
I have baptized and brought people into the promise of salvation. I have married couples who have gone on to become families. I have buried people I have loved and people I never had the opportunity to know, each time speaking God’s comfort into the lives of grieving families. I have met amazing people whose faith has blown me away. I have seen real strength and true joy, even in the darkest situations. I hold genuine love and compassion for those entrusted to my care – even those who have broken my heart. I have brought God’s Word and Sacrament to His Church nearly every week for five years, and I continue to be amazed that I get to do it.
I am so thankful for all of you, who have held us aloft with your prayers and words of love and support.The journey has been an incredible one, and I hope there is much more to come. May God bless His whole Church on heaven and on earth, and may we all walk the paths we have been called to walk, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.