I’m reminded lately of an important aspect of what it means to offer a life toward service in ministry. Certainly, ALL are called to participate in the ministry of Christ. The “Great Commission” found in Matthew 28:16-20 is spoken to all. We are each invited to participate in the redemptive work and world-transforming love of God, possible through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
So why be ordained? Why offer oneself in this way? Ordination over-simplified refers to a “setting apart for Gods’ use”, and a “endorsing/empowering/covenanting for ministry” by the Church. It’s something that involves both the empowering of God, and the affirmation and covenant of the Church. Years ago, and even in moments today, I would probably stumble through something having to do with feeling a call. That even from a young age, I felt the tug toward serving the church as a pastor. But something about that call always rubbed me wrong. That “rubbing wrong” element has to do with power/prestige attributed to the American pastor in many places. The “pastor” always seemed to me someone who held a position of authority and power. He wore a suit and tie, and shook hands firmly, because he ran things on behalf of God. But in Jesus, we don’t see any desire to move toward power or prestige. We don’t see him worrying about his image, or chastising his followers if they don’t tie their sandals a certain way.
Over the years, I’ve come to reconcile these things a bit. Certainly some pastors wear the “power tie”, and suit to match, and carry themselves a bit more proudly than they ought. But I’ve met so many pastors who have such love for God’s people (not just church members….but ALL people) and desire to serve them in any way possible. I’ve had opportunity both in college, and more recently at our present church home, to serve under lead pastors who happened to somehow love people sacrificially, AND wear a dapper-looking outfit at the same time. I joke about the “dapper-ness”, but seriously – it used to bug me with some pastors. However, as William Willimon writes,
“Those whom we designate as “ministers” are, in the New Testament, “diakonoi”, Paul’s favorite title for Christian leaders, derived from the Greek word for “service”. Significantly, it is the same word that is the root for “butler” and “waiter,” terms that have greater edge to them than “ministry.” How odd of the church to designate its leaders by so mundane and lowly a term. No pastor rises much higher than being a butler. Yet, in the topsy-turvy ethics of the Kingdom, this is as high as anyone rises – a servant of the servants at the Lord’s Table.” (Pastor: The Theology & Practice of Ordained Ministry)
From this perspective, shoot….give me a coat with tails if needed. I’ll even have my shoes buffed. Or I’ll break a jar of expensive perfume and wash the feet of those who come to dine. Whatever would help.
Pretend there was a large dinner hosted by the United Nations. All of the important people came to feast, and you were invited to help serve. What an honor! What an opportunity! Now multiply that by as grand a scale as possible, and understand that God has invited ALL His children to come and dine at the Table of the Lord on a regular basis. To have the privilege to serve at this table…to see the delight as those who’ve pulled up a chair smell the aroma of Christ, as they feast on the goodness of God’s Love and mercy…even if it means you’ve gotta sweep up the crumbs, or help someone with their napkin on occasion….whew.
It’s an odd oxymoron. Because even as you offer yourself as servant, you are filled with humble honor moving about the dining room (whether empty before the meal, or stained from spilled wine). Participating in serving a meal provided by God that enables and empowers those who partake, so that they can go out into the world and serve others in the same way.
At this point, I’m probably rambling. So what are you the reader to take away from all of this? Your pastor loves you, and wants to serve you more than you might realize. Come to the table, and enjoy all that God has to offer. Feel free to burp, even, in compliments to the chef (God….not your pastor.). If you naturally feel esteem and attribute status to your pastor….stop it. 🙂 He’s honored enough to be in God’s service to the table you dine at. If you naturally feel pastors are aiming for a prestige not Christ-like, at least offer them the chance to wash your feet. You may be surprised at how the Love of God is revealed in such moments…