When I entered the full-time pastoral ministry in 1980, I assumed it was the best way to serve the Kingdom of God. I was quite sure of the Lord’s call in my life, and I still am. I suppose I could have done something else, but I’m not sure what that would have been. I’ll never know now.
That was well over thirty-five years ago, and I have to say I’ve never doubted that call or rued the fact that I answered it. I will say that it’s not always been easy, but it’s been a lot easier than I suspected it would be going in. The old saying seems to be true. “Time flies when you’re having fun.” I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Clergy as Catalyst
I’ve served three different parishes in those thirty odd years. During that time, I’ve seen a lot of fruitfulness. God’s promise is true. He will always use us when we make ourselves available for his purposes.
I’d like to think I was used as a catalyst for some of that fruit. I certainly didn’t produce it, but seeing it planted, cultivated, grown, and harvested is a privilege I will always cherish. There’s nothing like it in the entire world.
Thinking back on it, however, there seemed to be an attitude that it was full-time ministry or nothing. By that I mean many people seemed to think that one either became a pastor or a missionary or they weren’t in ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The laity is just as capable or more so than we clergy types. Part of our problem is what I just did—distinguish between laity and clergy. I seriously doubt the division between the two was ever meant to be so distinct (or maybe never meant to exist at all). Every person not called “pastor” can do things his or her pastor cannot do. In 1 Peter 2:9, he calls us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. I’m pretty sure he was referring to all of us, not just the clergy.
The Hired Help
I often joke around and refer to people like myself as the “hired help.” Our function is not to do the work of the congregation. We’re simply there to help the church find fulfillment in their ministry. We have our own ministries, of course, but so does every believer.
I sometimes wonder what I’ll do when I hang it up (retire). I can’t imagine myself sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. I might cease to be the hired help, but I’ll always be employed for the Lord somehow.
One of the greatest joys of any pastor is to watch as the laity takes the ministerial bull by the horns. Most of the growth I’ve ever seen springs from lay people who heard the Lord and followed his direction. Always remember who you are in Jesus—a priesthood of believers.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]