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Do books ever follow you? This particular book stalked me. It expert appeared in my email courtesy of the Alban Institute. Then it appeared again in the Christian Century fall book edition. And then, it started to appear in my dreams. Becoming the Pastor You Hope to Be by Barbara J. Blodgett was officially following me. I think it was the title that grabbed me. I hope to be a _____ pastor. I’m just not sure how to fill in the blank. Oh. Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of ideas but those ideals do not fit nicely into that sentence. It would quickly result in bad grammar — and I generally try to avoid that. Mostly.
So, instead, I begin with what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be the one that is always behind the podium. I don’t want to be the only voice that the wider community associates with the church. Nor do I want to put on a collar for my pastoral identity to be revealed. I am a pastor even when I’m not at church. I’m a pastor when I’m not ministering to my congregation. I’m a pastor because something changed on the day I was ordained. Something shifted in my entire identity. Something that I have no earthly idea how to claim except to admit that it happened.
And yet, this doesn’t necessarily tell me what kind of pastor I should be. Something may have happened but it doesn’t make it plain what I should do with this identity. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since joining the Lewis Fellows. As a fellow, I participate in these experiences with other young clergy where we explore what it means to be a good leader. In the church visits and learning we do together, we do a lot of learning about what uplifts the institution of the church. I now have thicker files for stewardship campaigns and membership growth, but there is no conversation about what kind of pastor I want to be. I wasn’t called into this work to run a stewardship campaign. It’s something I can do and will do but it’s not the reason that I’m in this work. It’s not why I said “yes” to God’s call. I am forever changed by my ordination because on that day I committed to be a professional disciple. I answered this call because I wanted to be held by a community seeking to love God. I wanted to learn with that community. I want to be challenged by them. I want to imagine the impossible things we can do together. (There’s a reason for the blog title.) It’s the impossible things that excite me about ministry. It’s why I want to do this work. It’s why I have hope in this work and perhaps why I haven’t quite figured it out. I want to live those questions. Whether I’m wearing a collar, a stole or a pair of jeans, this is my identity. I’m trying to figure out how to be a disciple.
So, this book should be stalking me. Why? Because it’s talking about those things that I want to do. I want to learn in an intentional community — not just with the church I serve but other people that share my identity. It’s challenging those of us that are called to be pastors to see ourselves as disciples. We’re called to follow in that tradition which doesn’t mean that we simply run an awesome stewardship campaign. It means that we are also a prophet. We are also a priest. We are also a king. I don’t really understand that last one, but I’m not done with the book yet. Still, I’m grateful for these words. I needed something to help me fill in the blank.