Being in Ministry: a Profession or a Vocational Life? (Review of Evangelical Catholic pt. XV)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The F...

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day: 

5  I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6  an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7  For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8  He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9  He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it. Titus 1:5-9 (TEV)

“In the first decades of the twenty-first century, many, perhaps most, Catholic priests in the developed world still live a Counter-Reformation model of Church and a Counter-Reformation model of priestly ministry in which the priesthood is a kind of religious trade union. They believe, with real conviction, in the truths of the Creed in which they lead their people in prayer on Sunday, but their lives are more consumed with management than with evangelism; they talk more easily of “the Church” than they do of “the Lord Jesus”; and for all their devotion— and it is genuine devotion— the career aspects of their lives fill the horizon of their imaginations (and dominate their conversations, especially among themselves) rather more than the vocational aspects of their ministry.”  (1)

It’s been a while since I personally thought through what I do, and how I approach my ministry.  I spent a few hours doing so last year, when one of my deacons entered seminary.  But a serious review, taking a week or even a month and thinking through how and why I do what I do.

A couple of my recent blogs have addressed this – as I’ve reviewed Weigel’s book and considered his vision for what Bishops (in my case Circuit Counselors and District Presidents) should be like.  It’s a healthy application of both Law, and to an extent gospel.  I fall short of my own expectations, but yet, I have to admit – God is doing something in this place, in the lives of people who are finding healing from brokenness.

This week’s “highlight” again looks at this idea of what is my role as a pastor – at its foundation.  Is it simply a profession, a calling to I what I will do to be able to have a home, and food, and take care of my wife and son?  Is it about finding the best place to do that work, with the best pay and accommodations?  Am I more involved in the management and secular side of my role?  (As Sr. Pastor, i have the responsibility of being head of staff, and tasked with their development – not as saints but as teachers, office admin, etc)

Or is my role purely that of a vocational life?   That while I have to do administrative things, the very way I do them is as a shepherd, as the pastor of those with whom I interact?   That my vocation is not just the 50ish hours I am “on duty”, but that I am a pastor in my off hours as well?   Where and how do I draw the line between my vocation and my “personal life?”  There are differences in theology involved as well of course. But a vocation is far more encompassing than a profession.  It does encompass us, and while we understand this in regards to the judgment of our moral behavior, (we can’t have one set of morals for while we are on duty, the change them like a shirt  when we are off duty) I think we need to realize that our vocational attitudes and focus on caring for souls is as encompassing.

Weigel hits briefly on something most pastors/priests don’t ever want to admit to anyone.  It’s not the question of, “Do I want to “climb the ladder”” or “can’t I find a more… mature church to pastor?  I don’t even think it is a question of wanting more pay, or better benefits.  It’s more illusive than that, a deeper need.  It is like asking the following question, quite bluntly:  Do I seek validation from knowing I am “wanted” by others?  I have to admit, pastors/priests face a temptation there – when we hear someone is considering us, or the sense why not us… when we hear of other friends receiving  3 and 4 calls.  It’s not that we are dissatisfied where we are at, and even the most brutal of parishes has those things that bring us enough joy and strength to stand firm.  It’s not that we would want the pain again of making those decisions between “who needs me most”, and “where can I be most effective” and the real question – where does God want me. It just somehow affirming to be a wanted man.  Yet – when we realize the thoughts are simply a need for affirmation – that can be dealt with… even as we see the gratitude on people’s faces as we feed them with the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

As we realize this is a calling, a vocational life, our outlook changes.  Our professionalism slides aside as we spend the time needed, not the time allotted.  Meeting agendas become less important than the lives of those in those meetings, and it becomes easier to become patient in tough situations, waiting on Christ’s leading  showing itself in consensus, rather than our own wisdom or inner compass.  That we are dedicated to being where God wants us to be, without accounting the cost.  We become more willing to be there in the painful moments, aware that there is where God’s grace is seen with the greatest clarity.    As this attitude manifests, as this vocation takes route, that is when our people begin to realize that our vocation is one they share in, for they are the priesthood of all believers.  For in this – they show the true teachings of Christ.. the reality of the call to come walk with Jesus.

One thing is for sure… there is a lot of room to grow…

Lord have mercy – and let this growth be accomplished, that through it, you Lord would receive great glory.

 

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 137-138). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God’s saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on June 28, 2013, in Devotions, Good Articles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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