About a year ago, there were a series of posts and articles written about Millennials and the church. Many times they were titled, ‘Why I Stayed.” Though this post might be related to that conversation, this isn’t my focus.
A few months ago I was asked a simple but profound question by another ministry leader. He knew of my story and the patience needed to wait for a call after seminary, for a clearer path to formalized ministry and work in the church, and my persistence to continue to serve in the church and nonprofit world.
He simply asked me, “Why did you stay?”
He continued, “You could have given up on a system that didn’t seemingly know what to do with you. You could have found a well-paying job with a company, and a likely meaningful career. But you didn’t. Why?”
Perhaps you have received similar questions?
It was a good question. One that I took a moment to think of an answer, which led to further conversation. But since that question was asked, it’s been under my skin. So, here’s my best thinking about why I stayed.
- Deep in my heart of hearts, I knew I was prepared, being prepared, and called for some kind of unique ministry.
- God opened far too many doors to connections, conversation partners, and imaginative possibilities along the way for me to ever think seriously about giving up on the church.
- Life is a joyful response to the Good News and pure gift of the Gospel. I know that I could live that way in any number of occupations and vocations, but there’s just something about the mysteries of the church which draw me back.
- There’s a lot of problematic theology in the world, and a Lutheran understanding of grace and vocation, grounded in the Word, and known through the sacraments of baptism and communion matter.
- Life and faith is full of paradox. I’m a Lutheran, I get that. So, in the midst of not having a formal role or fit in ministry, I still felt fulfilled, assured, and affirmed that God was up to something.
- My wife Allison was pondering the same question in her own life and vocation, and in our moments of deep questioning, we were (and remain) each other’s best advocate to take a step back, discern, pray, and move forward in faith.
There are other reasons probably. But those are the big ones.
I stayed in ministry, because even though the church is a beautiful yet broken thing, I believe that God still works through it. There is no way that God is limited to it, but God in Christ is made known in and through community.
I have found that community among seminary colleagues. I have found that community through: college and high school friends; the wonders of social media, making friends and collaborators all over the place, and not always actually knowing these collaborators “in person’; through mentors, pastors, professors, and family; and through congregations and faith communities in at least three states.
Don’t get me wrong, the church is not perfect.
The structures and systems of the church are not fool-proof. Though I believe God is present and with us, I also know that any organization and institution that is led by humanity, is fallible because of the brokenness and reality of sin. Yet, even in spite of this, reconciliation and forgiveness are possible and given through the presence and promises of God.
Perhaps the other reason why I stayed is that I am stubborn? But I am choosing to believe, it’s because the Holy Spirit is active and blowing, making me deeply believe that God is up to something, and though that’s not always an easy thing, it’s exciting.
Some times I wish the Holy Spirit would blow and lead in a certain direction. It’s in those moments most of all, that I find myself either hitting a wall, or doing a complete 180 degree turn. Maybe that’s the same for you?
For all of you who have been a part of, who continue to be part of, and to those future people whom I have not yet met who will be part of community with me, thank you.
Thank you for joining with me, in our collective good, bad, and ugly. For taking a chance to be in relationship with me- to accept me as I am, to forgive me when I need to be forgiven, and to share openly about yourself, so that together we can be a part of God’s work. Whatever that might look like in any given time and space.