Tag: vocation

Remembering Why You Said Yes

This article was first published in Neue Quarterly, Vol. 4, Summer 2009.

Remembering Why You Said Yes
by Chuck Warnock

The phone rang at 3 A. M. one Saturday morning.  “Pauline is dying,” her niece said, “Can you come?”  I dressed quickly, told my wife I didn’t know when I would return, and headed out the door.   I drove to the nursing home ten miles away where the oldest member of our congregation lay dying.  At 105, Pauline had outlived her husband, her nearest relatives, her friends, and her neighbors.  Now her time had come, too.  I was Pauline’s pastor.  It was my duty to be there with her as she crossed from this life into the next.  But I knew it was more than just my job, it was my calling.

If you are a pastor, you probably have had a similar experience.  In a time of crisis, you know why you go.  You represent God’s presence, God’s comfort, and God’s grace to those passing through their own dark night of the soul.  Sitting in a hospital with anxious parents whose child is in surgery; or, standing with a widow as she identifies the body of her husband, you know you make a difference.  In those times it is not difficult to remember why we said “Yes” to God’s call to pastoral ministry.  Unfortunately, there are other times in a pastor’s life when the clarity of our call fades, discouragement clouds our memory, and we wonder “why did I ever want to be a pastor?”

I experienced a period of doubt and discouragement in 1990, and I forgot why I had become a pastor.  And when I forgot why I had become a pastor, the next question I asked myself was, “Why don’t you quit?”  And I did.  I resigned the church I started and left pastoral ministry.  I thought I had nothing more to say.  I thought my years of ministry hadn’t made a difference.  I was tired emotionally and spiritually, and I quit because I couldn’t remember why I had begun.  Fortunately, my story doesn’t end there.  In 2003, I stood in the pulpit for the first time in thirteen years.  I had remembered again why I said “Yes.”

The Myths of Ministry

Looking back on my own struggle with God’s call, I realized that three “myths of ministry” contributed to my difficulty.  This is not an exhaustive list, but these myths played a key role in my experience:

Continue reading “Remembering Why You Said Yes”

Where do you serve?

I had the privilege of speaking at the Convocation on the Rural Church, sponsored by Duke Divinity School this month.  The conference setting was the beautiful Kingston Plantation Resort at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and the weather was great for a few days at the beach.

The group attending the Convocation on the Rural Church were United Methodist pastors because much of the funding came from the Duke endowment.  We had a wonderful 3-days with the group of about 100 pastors and spouses.

The first night of the conference we all gathered for a kick-off banquet.  Debbie and I found our seats at a table with 6 other men and women.  As we got to know each other, we noticed that the question of location came up several times.

But instead of asking, “Where is your church located?”  or “What church do you pastor?”  The question was almost always asked this way —

Where do you serve?

Debbie noticed it first, and then I started to pay attention to how these rural United Methodist pastors identified themselves.  The idea of service, not status, prevailed throughout the conference.  Of course, maybe I’m making a mountain out of the proverbial mole hill.  But I was touched, if I may get a little maudlin here, by the phrase used throughout the event, as one pastor identified him or herself to another.

“Where do you serve?” seems a much more genteel and appropriate question than “What church do you pastor?” The emphasis is on ministry as service, not status, and I liked that.  I’m going to try to remember to ask that question the next time I meet a pastor and need to know where he or she ministers.  “Where do you serve?” is a great way to identify what we do as pastors and leaders.