Things That Happen At Starbucks

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“So, with all those books and that bible, you a pastor somewhere?”
“Yea, I’m one of the pastors at Valencia United Methodist Church on McBean, right across the street from Henry Mayo Hospital.”
“Methodist, huh?”
Crap. I started to think that this conversation wasn’t going to go well. Never mind that I was deeply into my reading. But the conversation continued.
He asked, “How long you’ve been a pastor?”
“I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now.”
“10 years? Wow. How old are you?”
“You’re kidding! You look like you’re barely a teenager.”
*Groan. Yes, I have boyish charms. Get over it. But I was polite. “Yea, I get that a lot.”
“Well, I’m fixing to be a pastor too.”
“Oh really?”
“Yea, I’ve felt the call to go into ministry and help people.”
“What were you doing before that?”
“I was an accountant. Been doing that for 20 odd years, but I just felt the call to go into ministry. Heading out to seminary in a couple of months.”

“That’s a drastic change of profession. What made you decide to pursue the call into ministry?”
“Well, you know, I feel like we need to teach the world salvation! And how much of a sinner we all are! I’m sure you agree with me, but you know, the love of Christ is the only thing that can save us. And I feel like I can reach more people as a pastor serving the church. Work with people in the church and get to them to bring more people to the church!”

I should’ve just left it alone, but something in me spoke on my behalf. It wasn’t me…
“But, I’m assuming that you didn’t work at a Christian accounting firm or bank, right?”
“No, it was secular. A few believers here and there, but mostly non-believers.”
“So… then… if I may, why would you leave such… a great opportunity to really share the message of God’s love to people who really need it, who you see everyday, who you work with… and go to work with the already churched, those who know God? Wouldn’t you as the accountant Christian have more of a chance to reach people who need to hear the Word of God, rather than you the pastor Christian?”

*Silence turns into awkwardness*

…I think I offended him.
“Can’t shake the call.”
“I hear you.”

Then he wished me well, and I him, and he left. It was a real awkward way to end a conversation. You’d think I’d be used to awkward situations, considering how many times my awkward-self gets into them… but it was awkward.

This conversation happened almost a month ago.
If the roles were reversed, and after hearing the question of why leave to be a professional pastor, I would’ve responded with, “Then why are you a pastor? Why are you working at a church?”

To which, I wouldn’t know how to respond, either.
But I have been thinking about that question that was never asked.
And I can’t really come up with a satisfactory answer.

Is a “professional” pastor necessary in our times today?

The best I can come up with is, yes.
But, I am strongly inclined to believe that a pastor that only engages her congregation…
A pastor who only stays in his study in the office…
A pastor who does not know or understand the heartbeat of the community the church is in the midst of…

Those kinds of pastors are now outdated. And, yes… irrelevant, even.
I think, those of us who chose the path of clergy, must always remember that we are appointed to not just the church family, but the community that our church family resides in.

I didn’t mean to belittle or question the man’s calling into ministry.
I should’ve prefaced that question by telling him it’s something that I’m struggling with.

But in a time where church attendance is dropping, where people are finding church less and less important, the questions poised by Adam Hamilton this weekend, has been ringing in my heart for a while,
“Why do people need Jesus?”
“Why do people need Church?”
“Why do people need the church that I am serving at?”

4 thoughts on “Things That Happen At Starbucks

  1. Very poignant and honest…thanks for sharing! We do, however need to “take it to the streets”…the world is hurting and needs our love…not our sermons. But each is called for a reason. My challenge would be…how can you re-define what it means to be a pastor? How can you make the most difference from your position? How is God’s love pouring out of your life into others? How much is “good enough”? We should be restless…God bless you and your ministry!

  2. Interesting blog. Thanks. Another way to look at it is that the people in the church are the ambassadors for Christ, and one of the pastor’s important roles is to equip them for their unique ministries.

    Larry Beman

  3. Great post and a great point. We’ve all seen it too often. I feel bad that the guy believes that going into full time ministry is a great way to reach the lost. It’s not that it’s impossible… but the reality is that if he’d stuck it out and been a believer in his workplace he’d probably have a lot more impact by staying where he was than quitting his job and going after full-time ministry.

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