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I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gustavus Adolphus College, A Nod to one of my schools

Last Fall, as I was leaving the University from a Bible study, a young man grabbed my arm. "You're the Lutheran pastor, right?" (I admit I am not THE Lutheran pastor, but at the University that's one of the things people recognize me for, along with long-haired hippie radical, and who is he?) Yes, I admitted.

"What do you have to do to be a pastor? I bet you have to go to a lot of school?" (Now, this is an interesting question. Let's take the school question first. To be a pastor, which I take means to be a leader in a local congregation, usually responsible for preaching and teaching God's Word, caring for God's mysteries, and being a part of God's mission in the world, does NOT--from God's perspective--require you to go to school. PEOPLE, who will pay you something to do those things, USUALLY require you to go to school. In other words, people usually don't want a leader who hasn't gone to school, even if God doesn't care. We'll get to the gentleman's first question in a bit.)

Yeah, in our tradition, I told him, pastors go to school. But being a pastor isn't what you do, it's who you are. (And this shows my hand. I do not believe being a pastor is "just a job," that anybody can do. I believe you have to be called into that job, and being a pastor is way different than any other job I've heard of in my 50 years. But in reality many jobs are like this. Being an accountant is way different than being a Professional athlete, and being a nurse is different than being a doctor. We live in a world where we can do many jobs, but we're probably only CALLED to one or two. That's what you have to BE--not DO--to be a pastor. You have to be called by God and by people who seek a leader.)

I asked him: what kind of stuff do you do that makes you think you want to be a pastor? (You see, even as young kid, a teenager even, people would say to me that if I ever got a church they would come. I went and served for 7 years 2 blocks from my high school. They did come. Even though I'd been gone for 15 years they remembered. Being a pastor is who pastors are. Granted, there are some things to learn, which is why many traditions and people like their pastors to have gone to school. It helps to be able to read, for example. But no matter how much schooling you have, you will not like the job if the calling is not who you are.)

He told me a couple of stories about conversations he has with his pastor, and one with his parents. God seems to be whispering to me, he said. "Well," I said, "it seems like you've done just about everything you need in order to be pastor. Now, we just have have to find out what kind of pastor you're going to be."

"How do I do that," he asked?

Simple, I said, go to school and figure it out. He laughed. "It always comes back to that," he quipped "it always comes back to that." I suppose he's right. But I was blessed to go to a school that had this building in the center of its campus . That's a chapel. Here's how I remember it  For people God has called to be pastors, walking past a chapel every day is not too difficult. But what if God has called you to some other job? What does walking by a chapel do to accountants, nurses, day-laborers, plumbers, retail clerks, lawyers, and First Basemen, whatever your job is?

All of us have a sweet spot called by God, and I guess a few of us go to school to figure that out, or how to use that call. What does God call you to be? How do you do that?

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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