I am pleased to report that our new prospective minister to be is no longer such and as a result of his ordination on Saturday he now our new minister. He will be sat at his new desk now ministering to our every need. Unfortunately that is minus his new laptop because some fool (me) couldn’t get his finger out and order it in time (well I only had 4 months to do it in).
There was a sermon on Saturday (it was a 2 hour service so there was a bit of everything in there). I will overlook the feeble comparisons of life as a christian being like that of a city fan and the accompanying jokes but only because there is a whole lot of other stuff he said that have had me thinking all weekend.
The first thing he said as he stood up bothered me quite a lot. He said “this is not a job, it’s a calling”. First of all, it quite patently is a job, he is doing work and getting paid, it’s a job. Secondly, and what I want to talk about more fully, is this notion of calling and that somehow ministers have a more important (louder) calling than the rest of us.
Consider your average minister in the church, by average I meant the type that you most often come across, not the ones that are average in the performance of their duties. I must stress at this point that I do think that ministers seem to be people of great integrity all of whom do genuinely want to make a difference and see their ministry as a way of doing so.
The thing is a lot of people want to make a difference in this sense (I am not going to be more specific than this on what the ‘difference’ is here, you will have to decide for yourself) but don’t want to be ministers. Are they not getting the call or are they not hearing it or is God not calling them at all?
Why does God chose some people over others to call? Let’s go back to our average minister. This person invariably has a strong church background. They will have grown up going to church, they may have done some youth work in their late teens and early 20s. They may have flirted with not believing for a year or two but in essence church life is in their blood. They will then embark on a career of some description, probably a profession (they are almost certainly middle-class) or will have spent some years bringing up the children. As they get into their thirties they become more involved with church work, possibly doing a bit of preaching or, again, youth work. They start to wonder whether the career is really for them, can they see themselves being a (insert your own favourite profession here) until they retire? They’d really like to do more of this church work what are the opportunties for a 30/40 something to get more involved and feed the family? Exactly, they can become ministers, God is calling them to leave the job they don’t really like too much or the family home where the kids no longer need them because they are at high school or university, and do a job in the church.
Look at it from another angle, how many currently serving ministers in the URC (or many of the other denominations) had absolutely no experience of church before God called them to stop doing the job they loved and become a minister of the word and sacrament? Not many.
I am not, as you might think, having a go at ministers and accusing them all of mistaking a mid-life crisis for a call from God. What I am doing is suggsting that their calling to get paid for working for the church is no more important than my calling not to do that and to put in all my church hours for free.
And as for the robes, well don’t get me started on that…….