Sometimes you have to choose
On Thursday I said that I became a minister after feeling a “calling” when I was seventeen. It was a very natural thing for me, having grown up in the the culture of southern, evangelical Christianity. My father was a Baptist minister. Our lives revolved around the church. We were there whenever the doors were open, and if the doors were locked, my dad had the key. Virtually all of our family friends were Christian insiders, many of them ministers. My best friends were in the youth group at the church. I was aware that many people did not go to church as often as we did and were not Christians, but those people lived in another world. Our world was a safe one, nestled within the walls of the church.
It wasn’t until I started this blog back in 2002 that things began to change. Suddenly I found myself interacting with all sorts of people. Some were from faith traditions very different from my own. Some from no faith traditions at all. It was thrilling for me. I wrote this in an attempt to describe how it felt to me at the time.
Now if that’s all there was to this, it wouldn’t be much of a story. A minister suddenly finds the world is a bigger place than he imagined. Good for him.
But something else happened. I started falling in love with you guys. I know, I know, I know, that sounds incredibly sappy. And I feel as embarrassed as the first time you tell someone you love them. But YES, I do. So just shut up, okay? I have come to know many of you over the years, and we’ve become great friends. I’ve met you through emails, comments, in the old rlp chat room, and all over the internet. I’ve been invited to preach at other churches, lead retreats, and once I did a wedding for two bloggers. I think things came to a head when we did those three RLP retreats at our church in 2008. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was probably the beginning of the end of my time as the pastor of Covenant Baptist Church.
Maybe I can just say it this way: Somewhere along the way, this bog became more than a hobby. It became its own kind of calling. And every calling takes a lot of energy. I’ve tried to be both Real Live Preacher and the pastor of Covenant Baptist Church for many years. I did not walk away from this church lightly. Lord knows I did the best I could to be both a good writer and a good pastor. I haven’t been the best pastor over the last few years. I kind of ran out of energy. And my writing has suffered too.
I had to choose. For the next season of my life, Real Live Preacher is my calling. For better or for worse, that’s what I’m going to do. I will continue to work at Jethro part time to help make a living, but writing is my vocation.
It is done. It is a done deal. I’m nervous, because I have to find ways to make a living as a writer. But I think I will. So I’m not worried. Just mindful of that reality. And I feel a little lost. I’ve been at Covenant for 20 years. Being the pastor of this community has been my identity. I’m going to stay away from Covenant while they sort things out for themselves. I’m hopeful that I can find a way to remain a part of the faith community without being the pastor. We’ll see how that goes.
Coming next: How hard it was to tell my dear friends at Covenant that I could not continue to be their pastor.