Losing my Edge
I knew something had changed when I started systematically watching reruns of my favorite TV show, "Friday Night Lights." Netflix, you see, is a dangerous invention. And over the past year or two, it had slowly, subtly siphoned my passion.
I'm a teaching and campus pastor, and this is a confessional of sorts. The main issue is not television or Netflix per se. It's about a stage of life, in which I, as a pastor, have been tempted to exchange my calling for a paycheck. My ability to care was being compromised by other pastimes.
Part of the temptation is surely due to the prevalence of technology and entertainment everywhere we turn. Entertainment on demand—on our phones, our tablets, our computers—renders the disciplines of the spiritual life, and the demands of pastoral work, boring. And so, in this particular slice of time, we find it increasingly difficult to focus, as Eugene Peterson puts it, on a "long obedience in the same direction."
That's part of the problem. But the bigger issue is one that I imagine young pastors have shared for ages. I am no longer a rookie who daily feels challenged by the pastoral role. Nor am I a seasoned veteran who has the ethos and wisdom to quickly facilitate change in the local church.
This is a transitional season, a bridge somewhere between youthful exuberance and proven leadership.
Calling and Concentration
Like most pastors, I went through seminary and ordination in order to strengthen—even gloriously restore—local churches. It took me four years to complete all 97 credit hours for my master's degree, and then about six months to learn that few people really cared what I knew.
They hadn't heard of the authors I quoted in my sermons, and didn't care about four nuanced views of the atonement. Even though I served as a pastor throughout seminary, somehow I expected that once I finished my studies and could devote myself full-time to Christ's work, real change would occur. Dozens would commit to Christ on ordinary Sundays! Communities would be bowled over by the brilliance of Christ! Injustices would be overturned!
But as I learned my new role, and I found my expectations often unmet, I discovered complacency starting to set in. And so now, I find myself in a precarious season. Three years post-seminary, I feel competent, but not proficient. I want to participate more in God's work, yet strangely, I'm tempted by comfort and complacency.
There have been successes for sure. I cleared some ministry hurdles. Our church has successfully launched a second campus. We've fought for, and achieved, a healthy organizational structure. We've reworked our statement of faith, and re-articulated our core values. In many ways, we have successfully made the transition from an internally focused fortress to an externally focused fragrance.
In the midst of it all, I went from single man to married with two kids. I've gained some respect in our congregation. But now I am tired. And comfortable. I look forward to just ...