The call to serve Christ as a pastor is not a deserved privilege or entitlement. However, the call does grant privilege. It grants the almost immediate privilege of access to people’s lives and souls. For clergy, the call is often acknowledged by the word, “Rev” which is short for “Reverend”. It is a powerful word that often grants immediate access to people’s lives.
In the space of a two hour meeting on a Friday night with about 8 people I did not know, and who did not know me, plus the signature of a District Superintendent, I went from Bill Sterling college Junior, living in a dorm; to Rev. Bill Sterling, pastor of 3 churches, living in a parsonage (the regular pay check wasn’t bad either-I thought I was a millionaire). My theological training consisted of Sunday School, worship, and a correspondence course through my denomination for a license to preach. I now had the title, “Rev”. Overwhelmed by it all, I had no idea what the implications were. I did not comprehend the responsibilities. I had no clue as to the sacred privilege that the title and role would entrust to me.
One of my first pastoral visits as “Rev” was to Mr. Bill. He was home. He was dying. From our first meeting to our last time together, he called me “Reverend.” He wasn’t concerned about my training. He wanted to know about my faith. He would talk about his life and faith. Sometimes his wife would sit with us, sometimes we were alone. I visited listened, shared scripture and prayed. The listening part had nothing to do with pastoral counseling skills. I didn’t know what to say. He shared his fears, his hopes, and his concern for his wife. He took what each day brought peacefully and calmly. He gave me far more that I gave him. The title, “Rev” gave me instant access into the sacred space of his life and dying. Yes, at our first meeting, we were strangers. Yet the common faith we shared, and the title “Rev” gave both of us a greater level of familiarity.
Over 37 years of ministry, the title “Rev” has been a title, a label of my call, unlocking doors and granting me as a pastor, the privilege of access into people’s lives and souls. It has granted me access to moments and places in people’s lives where I had no right to be, didn’t want to be, but where I was needed. I have had the honor and privilege of people giving me the gift of being invited into their lowest, most vulnerable, painful and most fearful experiences. I have also had the privilege of being invited into their high moments and joys.
Through the call, Christ allows me to represent him in these intimate moments and relationships. This is the privilege granted by the call and it scares the daylights out of me at times
My next post will be THE ADVERSITY OF THE CALL