I am asked about once a month how I found myself in ministry. It’s an interesting question, that has no simple answer. I usually say things like “I backed into it” or “I got one of those TO OCCUPANT invites.” Or “I sucked at golf so I tried something where I could work on Sunday. My son Mateo once said to me in a moment of a 13-year old’s defiance “You only work an hour a week.” I volleyed back “You ought to go into the ministry Mateo, as much as you like to goof around”. “Oh No! Not me!!! Never, I couldn’t put up with people the way you do”. The truth of the matter about Mark and ministry is that I have spent most of my life doing what I ❤️. When it comes to the God stuff, I am less certain but more hopeful. When Sam got in my car that Saturday, neither of us fit any of the stereotypes of churchy- ness.
He was headed to The Tivoli at Metro State College. “I am in a speech contest and I went out to my car and it had a totally flat tire. Man, I am so glad for Lyft”. “Hey, Lyft is like duct-tape, we can be used for all sorts of occasions “. We drove along for a couple of minutes and then ‘out of the blue’ he said “My speech is on a mission trip I took a few years ago to El Salvador.” “I would love to hear it. I spent three weeks on a mission trip in El Salvador 🇸🇻 in 1999. We helped to rebuild an old hacienda, and transform it into a community center. It was in the village of Colima, which was the site of the first massacre in that horrible proxy war between the US and the USSR. Colima is on the Rio Limpa River almost to Honduras 🇭🇳”.
We began a spirited conversation about ministry between a 30 something hipster and a baby-boomer cleric gone Lyft driver. He told me he was a youth/young adult pastor who had recently gone to work for a church very near my home on Washington Park. “I spent a few years in New Zealand 🇳🇿 just kind of goofing around. It was there I gave my life to God. They keep wanting me to go to seminary. What do you think”? I was now in my wheelhouse. “I loved seminary. I got to spend four years with great professors and fellow students diving deep into things that I found compelling”. “I really am not sure. School and I haven’t always gotten along that well”, he said a bit hesitantly. “Do I really need it to do ministry”? “That’s a great question. The answer is absolutely no. Going to seminary is no guarantee of one’s capacity to connect with, and work with, people in the church. In fact, my experience is that being a seminary super-star is no predictor for an ability to slog it out in the local church. Some of the pastors I admire the most struggled in seminary, and I have seen the top scholars create havoc in congregations”. “Well, they really want me to go”. “Do you love doing what you are doing? Do you see yourself doing it for a long time”? “Yes and yes” he answered with a big smile. About then we pulled up at his destination. “You can do it!!! Go win that speech contest”!!! I cheered. He agreed, “It’s a great story, the mission trip and all. I could use the prize money to buy some new tires”. “I can tell you were made for ministry- go to seminary, you will never regret it, and you will bless many”.
Sometimes our best lessons are learned; sometimes they are lived, usually it’s a mysterious mixture of both.
Onward and Upward,