Monday, September 17, 2007

What Next?

Last week I got together for lunch with a mentor of mine. During the conversation we were talking about the Jersey Shore and lamenting over the uncontrolled inflation that the bubble real-estate market has created down there. Avalon in particular, a town we both love, it just off-limits to anyone who isn't insanely wealthy any-more - and the building of various "McMansions" in that town have made the place feel claustrophobic and artificial (Dune Drive isn't what it used to be). As we discussed the rising shore prices my mentor mentioned that he and his wife would love to retire back down at the shore somewhere because that was "home" to them - but right now there was simply no way that they'd be able to afford it. It's a great shame for him, as he's got some great connections down there.

His mentioning of retirement led me to ask, "Well, how many more years do you think you can do what you're doing until you retire?" I won't give the answer - except to say it's neither immediate nor far-off.

Now, my mentor has been blessed in his time of full-time pastoral ministry to serve only two churches and do some fantastic work with them. When he dives in, he dives in for the long-haul and really only feel comfortable contemplating when he feels he can trust the leaders of the church enough for permission to leave (submission, folks, isn't a one-way street). That's not to say he's never been tempted to move on without asking - he actually has a name for the days where he wants to run from pastoral ministry screaming at the top of his lungs, "Target Days." Why that? Because those are the days when he wants to go and work at Target! He's never given in to a "Target Day," and the trust he works so hard to develop does some great things (and his current church was much farther gone than Central was when I got here).

His dedication inspires me, and his humility challenges me - but as I look at how both he (after decades of this ministry) and I (after four years of this ministry) have pastored the same number of Churches I wonder if I've really got what it takes to go and start all over again if/when I finally leave Central. Would I really have the energy, drive, and dedication to do that all over again? I honestly don't know.

Now, for readers who are from Central - please understand, I'm not planning on going anywhere for a while. Heck we're doing some wonderful things right now and you all just helped me map out several years worth of sermon-series that you feel Central needs to hear (and maybe a couple of devotional studies to go with them along the way). If I can finally get some breathing room to write my books I'll be a happy camper indeed!

No, I'm talking five or ten years down the line. My kids will be teen-agers (or about to be), I'll have been here almost (or over) a decade, and by that time we'll have developed some decent roots in the community. It would be hard to leave that and start over - particularly given the way that my previous pastorate began ended, and my current one began (though this one will have a much happier ending, I'm sure). Why would I want to go through that struggle again? And could I, knowing the ugliness kids see congregations inflict on pastors as they try to "whip them into shape?" I honestly don't know.

I look beyond my pastorate here at Central and see.......I have no idea what I see. I guess on one level that's a good thing. After all if I can't see where I'm supposed to be going from here my time's obviously isn't finished here yet (which I am currently happy with, who knows what tomorrow will bring). I've also always said that I won't pursue ministry as a "stepping stone." I'm not a career-minded leech, and the fact that I'm not looking to "move up" in ministry is something I'm glad for. I've seen "career-builder" pastors, they annoy me.

So, what next? I have no idea - maybe I've got too much to do right now that envisioning that is beyond my scope at the moment. For that small mercy, I suppose I'll just have to give thanks. After all, I've got to start ordering the books so I can prepare for all these sermon-series you all told me to preach.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

You will have the energy, dedication and drive to start over again. I believe in you in this and I believe that God will allow it.

Hands down you are a fighter and I know you can rise to any challenge that you face.

And it makes me glad that you know you will leave here eventually. I've seen a couple of churches that haven't had a change in pastor and they tend (without some exceptional people and leadership) to grow nicely and then implode very, very badly in a crumbly decay. (I'm talking on the scale of 30+ years here)

Or if a leader doesn't know that staying forever isn't an option. They often try to hang on and fix everything even after their time is up which tends to undo any good things that happened.

Now if only the congregations would understand this.....