Around august, 2011, I returned home from Newbold College as I had finished my courses. I was ready to start my 2 year term as a pastoral intern which was part of the programme in order to be more suitable for the job (although I hardly ever think of my job as a ‘job,’ but I don’t have a better word to describe my occupation at present). I was filled with questions and anxiety. What kind of church and what kind of people will I encounter? How will they receive me in my relatively young age? What Biblical topics will have their interest? Will they like my style of preaching? Those are a few of things I was more than curious to find out.
Right before I as even in my rights to start thinking about it, I quietly prayed to the Lord to grant me my ideal church, of which I told Him all about, in full detail. How I’d pleaded with Him at that time for a church full of HBO and University students, with lots of high-tech engineers and professional musicians. I also had good excuses why I needed such a church: so that together with these students, we can explore the many complex theological topics in the Bible; pound our way through theodicidal, epistemological, hermeneutical and many other issues of this sort.
But then I soon learned that such a church does not exist, anywhere, only in my fantasy. Students more often than not, are pre-occupied with other (perhaps in some ways) more ‘pressing’ matters. Another thing I learned about soon enough, was the kind of churches in which I would gain the valuable experiences necessary. The very first one stole my heart immediately: the members were so loving, welcoming and warm, I could imagine Christ having such a community of believers in mind when He gave His commandment to love one another as the only proof of true christianity (John 13:34,35). It didn’t take long for my initial questions to be answered, or rather amended.
However, the most important question I should have asked was what kind of pastor I wanted to be? Just a few months in ministry, that question was brought to me by a colleague. Without any hesitation what so ever, he threw that question in the ring where he and I had been chatting our time full about the new gig. ‘What kind of pastor do you want to be?… Tell me, why did you say ‘yes?’ In the same manner the question was raised, I instantly gave my set of answers to this question. ‘Well, I want to create this, and I want to bring that, and I want to correct those, and I want to speak against these and.. and.. and.’
My colleague listened carefully. When I was done with my long list of things I wanted to be or do, he than said something that resonates in my mind up until this day: ‘so, you’ve said ‘yes’ in order to create YOUR type of church?’ … That was a hard rock to chew on… Did I, unconsciously, said ‘yes’ to my calling in order to build, create, erect the church of my own liking? I believe that this is a serious question to be asked. I also believe that this is a question all church officers should ask themselves: dear elders, deacons, treasurers and everybody that ever said ‘yes’ to a church position: did you say ‘yes’ in order to build the church of your own liking? Or did you say yes to serve the people? Are you able to sacrifice some of your burning wishes if you notice that a number of people in your church are suffering under them? Are you stubborn to uphold methods and forms because it is to your own liking, even at the cost of the unhappiness of others? Is that the reason you said ‘yes’ to your calling?
The best reason to say ‘yes’ then, is because you are willing to serve Gods own, according to their needs. Don’t give somebody a handshake if they need your ears. Don’t be stubborn to keep the entry song we’ve been singing for more than 50 years, if this makes a lot of other members unhappy. The best of leaders know what it is like to sacrifice their own wishes, in order to have the flock happy. Once the flock is happy, you as a leader in turn, will be made happy by the flock. It almost always works that way.
What we, in leadership positions, need to ask ourselves is if we are not consciously or unconsciously busy (re)building or sustaining the church of our own youth (days), or if we are actually building the church for the youth of their day. Are we thus, in our endeavours, upholding, protecting, rebuilding the church of ‘yesterday,’ or are we investing in the church of tomorrow? You know… the church that you’re children and grandchildren will need, in their time, with their challenges. Why did we say ‘yes?’