The reverse seems to be the case more often than not, at least visibly so… but i wonder how many ex-pastors are out there who could serve, but one thing or another is holding them back. A friend bugged me the other day. He used to be a worship pastor at a northern metorpolitan non-denom megachurch, and through a series of events, now is located in a very different demographic. and is finding it hard to get back in the saddle again. Even apart from pastoring, just participating in a community of faith is a challenge at this time. Thus I got thinking about barriers to rentry for those who once were, but are no longer connected. I’m looking at this more from a non-denom pov, as Lutheran ecclesiastical heirarchy, whether it be the ELCA roster list, or the LCMS districts, make re-entry a more formal type thing, which in many ways has fewer barriers to some extent… although making the first steps to re-entry are likely similiar. BY the same token, I think the barrier issues can also apply to service in general, irrespective of ordination or not.
- Jesus sent out the disciples with nothing, yet today, how many feel they need to have a car and a well paying tentmaker job to pastor? Certainly, both make things easier by far… ie midnight hospital calls dont lend themselves to public transit, or even bugging a church member, but workarounds can be procured. Giving to the poor, when one is poorer than those requesting help is problematic, but a group of faith can provide a resource pool, other than the pastors pocket.
- Jesus said to let the dead bury their own, ie when he called, we are to jump, not spend years getting our personal life in order. Otoh, the call is scary enough on its own, much more so, if ones personal ducks are not in order. Granted the admonitions from Timothy should be looked at, as far as the characteristics of a leader go… but also keep in mind, the disciples did not exactly lead noble lives before they met Jesus. Thus it would be exceedingly reasonable to assume that much past baggage ended up coming along for the ride. Prior reputations, just as Paul’s prior life as Saul no doubt did raise concern amongst those he ministered too, yet God called them. There is an element of power through frality that seems to ripple through scripture.
- Familiarity may also be a barrier. Paul talks about being all things to all people… that will push anyone outside of their comfort zone and then some. Its easy to want the familiarity of a previous call, or at least some semblence of commonality, from a human point of view… but that makes the call safe, perhaps too safe, and thus Paul talking about being all things to all in service to the kingdom. Familiarity can range from location, to worship style, to demographics, and even to theology in some cases. In the ELCA we have everything from high church liturgical conservatism, or the rather far out there and liberal herchurch.org. In non-denoms, the spread is likely as wide, if not wider.
- There is also an issue of confidence, and perhaps this is the biggest deal. Once one falls off the horse, if one is slow to get back on , confidence can take a real header. I just about bought the farm some 20+ years ago in an airplane… but my boss had me back up in the air in under 24 hours. It took a year plus to get over the nightmare aspects, but I had zero trepidation about entering the cockpit, even from day one. I think if one leaves a call for any number of reasons, without a game plan in place to pick up the mantle again, confidence can take a real header… and then things can spiral down pretty fast, and the lack of confidence likely results in even more barriers being put up.
The issue then becomes how to get off center, and get rolling again. And perhaps the biggest part of that is making the first step. Fear do to any or all of the above barriers can serve to paralyze. Selective procrastination due to a lack of confidence/fear can do the same. Just as analysis paralysis can come back to bite. I think the key may be to set a goal of returning to service, with many tiny steps especially at the beginning. Something as simple and unthreatening to list all the potential churches in the area is reasonably easy to go. The next step being getting on the horn, and bugging a sr pastor a day for a bit. From there church visits, and then perhaps some level of involvement in a church or two. At that point, hopefully the barriers are significantly reduced, such that one can hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, and the goal goes from a man driven one to a spirit led version. The big picture seems like a lot… 20 minutes on google isnt. Think small, and let God lead to the big things.