I am a pastor

I think I shall always remember the phone call. With four young, vibrant people standing across the desk in my office, I considered not answering because of the ongoing meeting, but the meeting was essentially concluded, and so I picked up the phone and issued the standard greeting. The voice on the other end of the line was vaguely familiar. “Yes, I’m looking for Pastor Jeremy, please.” When I responded that I was the same, the man continued, “Pastor Jeremy, my name is Jerry, and I’m a chaplain here at Mercy Hospital.” He then went on to tell me that a young man from our church had been involved in a terrible car accident earlier in the day and, while they had flown him via air ambulance into one of the best hospitals in the state, he was not expected to live.

Within minutes, I had brought the meeting to a close, ushered my guests from the building, and run to meet our vice-chairman, who happens to live just behind the church and was actually coming across the lawn at that very moment to mow. I asked him to pick up my kids from school and watch them until my wife could get home, and then I was off to the hospital.

As I rushed into the intensive care unit, the chaplain was waiting for me. He reported that, only minutes earlier, the family had opted to disconnect the machines, and the young man had passed away. And then he told me where the family was.

When I entered the room and saw four women huddled together sobbing, there were, quite simply, no words. I mean, what could I say?

Thoughts of Job ran through my mind. When Job lost everything, including his children, his three friends showed up and started telling him all these truisms and platitudes that were somehow supposed to fix everything. Some, including myself, have assumed it was because they were jerks, but I wonder today if it wasn’t that they simply didn’t know what else to say.

At any rate, what words could I offer that, ultimately, would sound any better to this family than those of Job’s misguided friends? Psalm 23? Something from Isaiah? Lamentations or Ecclesiastes, perhaps? Somehow, nothing seemed adequate in that moment. So I merely sighed and flopped down on the ground beside the ladies. And for a time, we just sat there. Silently.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday with the family of a young man killed in a car accident at just 22 years of age. I had known him since he was 10, watching him move into the youth group and then out into the world. I had seen him struggle with some poor decisions and their consequences, and I had watched from afar as, by all accounts, he aimed to set his life right.

In some ways, I suppose I considered him like my own child. He was a member of the first generation of kids who had grown up under my ministry. And so I considered it odd when, on several occasions throughout the afternoon, people would thank me for coming to the hospital, as though that was something extraordinary. As though I knew what I was doing.

I thought this a very strange thing. You see, I am a lot of things. Indeed, the list of titles that any one person has in this life can easily extend into the dozens, even hundreds. There are titles associated with family life, recreational activities, academic achievement, and jobs. Some carry with them a great deal of weight. Others carry with them awesome responsibility. Many carry at least some level of prestige.

Like anyone else, I have my fair share of titles. I am a son, a brother, and an uncle. I’ve been an assistant, an associate, a leader, a “master,” and even a “guru.” But even with all of those titles, many of which sound big and important, there are exactly four that I consider the most important of all. It is these four, more than any of the others, which drive my actions and ignite my passions. It is these four which carry the most amazing privileges and most awesome responsibilities. These four which truly define who I am. You see, in their order of priority, I am a man of God. Not in the sense that I am perfect or anything like that, but in the sense that I have been purchased by Jesus’ blood, and I choose to make Him my owner and master on a daily basis. I am a husband. What a profound thing to think that my wonderful wife chose me to spend her life with, and I am responsible for taking care of her and drawing her closer to my Lord. I am a father. Those who have children immediately understand what a tremendous thing this is. And I am a pastor, the title which comprises the subject at hand.

I am a pastor. For many, it would seem nothing more than a job title, but for anyone who has ever contemplated the role behind the word, it is a truly awesome thing. As a pastor, I am responsible for the spiritual well-being of myself, my family, and the congregation which God has entrusted to my care. Under this one title, I am a teacher, a prophet, a priest, a shepherd, a soldier, a servant, a leader, and much, much more.

Indeed, the sheer enormity of the simple title, “Pastor,” is, I believe, impossible to convey in a purely academic setting. Perhaps that is why, upon graduating from Bible college and entering “the ministry” for real, I found that, even with all of the wonderful things my professors had taught me and I had picked up over the course of various internships and such, I was still at the bottom of a relatively steep learning curve.

After years of college and various ministry experiences, I quickly realized that there were a lot of things that my teachers, through no fault of their own, could not teach me, even when they tried. There were some things books simply could not convey. And there were a number of lessons that, even though I had heard the words and taken the notes and even expounded in numerous term papers, would not congeal until I had been there and done that.

About each of the other three titles that are truly the most important, there have been numerous volumes written by persons far more intelligent – and experienced – than I. In fact, there are probably better resources about being a pastor. Certainly, there will be more academic works out there. But maybe these words of someone who doesn’t know – and hasn’t done – everything will help some who aspire to claim the same title that I do. After all, it is more than a job title because, if you are going to be a pastor, I can guarantee that it is more than a job.

No, being a pastor is not something you do; it is something that drives your actions, consumes your desires, and ignites your soul. It defines your person such that it is what – and who – you are so that when people ask you about yourself, the first thing that comes to your mind has nothing to do with academic degrees – “I know this” – or temporal accomplishments – “I’ve done this.” Rather, it is that singular statement: “I am a pastor.”


2 Responses to “I am a pastor”

  1. 1 Rachel Meyer October 13, 2013 at 1:55 am

    Well. I’m crying! Well said, and yes, you ARE a Pastor, in the truest sense of the word. My heart breaks for Connie and her family. I think you had no words because all that the moment really requires is your being THERE, IN the moment, with them. Love and prayers to all. God bless you for being who you are.

  2. 2 Lentryk October 8, 2014 at 5:00 am

    Amen…Thank you for writing this

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