After our Annual Meeting of the Congregation, I’ve been thinking about why I’ve stayed as the Pastor of Cross Lutheran Church for more than 26 years.
The short answer is I’ve stayed because no one has asked me to go elsewhere. That is to say the congregation seems to be satisfied enough with my ministry that they have not asked me to leave. And no other congregation has extended a letter of call to me in all that time either. In fact I’ve only had one interview in 26 years. At a conference a few years back a fellow pastor asked me who my advocate was on the Synod staff. When I told him I didn’t think I had one, he told me he didn’t either; and he wondered why neither of us did given our experience and competence. Maybe what the two of us concluded about ourselves and Synod staff will be the subject for another blog posting.
The truth is, I’m thankful to still be here, because I believe we–that is the congregation and I–are involved in important work together. The vast majority of the members have accepted me and still allow and encourage me to be the kind of pastor who can concentrate on preaching, teaching, and the care of souls.
I still feel “challenged” here, in the best sense of that word. The people encourage me to continue to grow theologically, and we tend to focus on worthwhile matters within and outside of the congregation, rather than becoming involved in petty squabbles. There are enough people here who seem committed to growing as God’s children called to follow Jesus that I have a real sense of community with my most immediate brothers and sisters in Christ. The people who are here regularly are for the most part quite genuine; the real “salt of the earth” as Jesus himself uses that phrase.
We’ve also been fortunate to have other good people on our small staff, so we’ve avoided many of the staff headaches my clergy friends tell me about in the congregations they serve.
Eugene Peterson writes in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant that a pastor should serve in a congregation as if they are going to be there for the rest of their ministry. I have for quite some time appreciated that wisdom, and am grateful to be where and with whom I am.