Q & R: I want to be a pastor. Am I crazy?
Here's the Q:
We’ve connected a few times in mmm at ccc College and fff Seminary, and we’ve had a few brief email conversations over the past number of years.... At the Wild Goose festival in 2012 I met vvv and had a good conversation with him. He asked me about myself and I said a few things and he immediately said “you want to be a pastor.” It kind of shocked me--both because few others (if any) were telling me that, and because I knew it was true. He told me I needed a spiritual director. I told him I didn’t have anyone in my area who I really trusted, but I told him I trusted you. He told me I should contact you. I said that was crazy. He said you might say no but that I should contact you anyway. That was a year and a half ago.
I’m finally contacting you because I do trust you, and I need some advice. I have been passionate about church, and in particular the future of the church, for 15 years now. The problem is I’ve been in conservative circles where I have received little encouragement to really pursue these passions (I also got married, started a family, got a career, etc). ...The fellow I met at Wild Goose was right--I want to be a pastor. I want to be thinking, and more importantly, I want to be doing these things on a daily basis. Do you have any advice? I have a Master of Theological Studies degree from xyz. I’ve been working at a Christian college ... I'm in my early thirties. I want to work in the church. Am I crazy? Do you have any advice?
I certainly understand if you can’t respond, but I hope you do. Thanks for all that you’ve already given to me.
Here's the R:
Of course you're crazy! But this could be a good kind of crazy ... and since I spent 24 years as a church planter and pastor, I'm obviously similarly afflicted.
The truth is that we need thousands of crazy people willing to invest their faith, hope, and love in the formation of new faith communities and the revitalization and strengthening of existing ones, people like you.
This is a huge subject and I can't do it justice here. But I would like to suggest some of the key questions I think you need to answer.
1. New or Existing? If you want to work in an existing church, you need to be realistic about the costs and benefits. The same goes for starting something new.
Assuming you want to start something new ...
2. Denominational or Non? I started a nondenominational church, but if I were doing it again today, I would seriously consider linking up with a progressive denomination. There are, of course, costs and benefits on both sides here as well.
3. What are your motivations and strengths? And what are your concerns and weaknesses? It's way better to be aware of both categories as you begin. Among other things, you'll have a better idea what kind of team you need to bring around you to help you.
4. What's the financial plan? Full-time or Bi-vocational? I think that most sustainable churches will need full-time staff at some point (although in some ways I wish that weren't true). But many of the new churches we need will themselves need some time to develop without the financial pressure of a salary to pay. Can you envision a sustainable (for a few years at least) way of life - balancing time, intelligence, money, and energy resources - that would allow you to start something without needing a lot of money? Money too often becomes the tail that wags the dog.
5. What four or five churches would you like to use as models? We need new church developers who will innovate, but nobody innovates blind.
6. Where can you find a circle of friends to link up with? That might come in a denomination, or in a network like Transform.
7. Where can you find coaching and spiritual direction? That is, as you already know, one of the most important questions of all.
I am deep in a commitment to finish my next book by September. But after that, I plan to get some breathing room and one of the things I want to find a way to do is provide some time and availability to emerging leaders like you. Let's stay in touch on this. In the mean time, nurture your dream and gift ... and know you're in my prayers.