“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
That’s a tough question when you’re in elementary school. It’s a tough question for an adult. I know people on the verge of retirement who still haven’t figured that one out.
I’m guessing it was 4th or 5th grade when one of my teachers led us through the selection process. It wasn’t necessarily a quiz or even an assessment.
Just one page containing a long list of possible careers we might be interested in pursuing as we matured into adulthood. The exercise: choose 3 and rank them in your preferred order. Most of my friends thought they were headed for “professional athlete.” A few others selected doctor or teacher, while a handful landed on astronaut, policeman and firefighter.
And I’m pretty sure one student wrote in “superhero.”
Me on the other hand. I was struggling.
I was struggling because I knew at a fairly early age that I wanted to be a pastor. I wouldn’t have known that title then. It would have been “preacher.”
And when you’re looking at a long list of future careers, there’s really not a category for that. So I scoured the list for something close to preacher.
I have no idea what I ended up choosing.
But that’s all I ever wanted to do and I never considered anything else.
I knew I wanted to be a preacher.
A preacher like Mr. Remi.
Remi Duhon was the minister at our church. I’m not really sure why I wanted to be like him because when he was in “preacher mode” in front of the congregation, I was a little scared of him. He seemed to fit more at home in a tent revival, red-faced, sweating and quoting tons of Scripture. There were no “throw away” services or sermons for him. Sunday night got the same attention as Sunday morning.
But when Mr. Remi was “off stage” I have great memories of just hanging out with him. I can still visualize certain things about his office. The wall of books and the Haitian relics from mission trips. Vivid images remain of stopping by his house on my walk home from school to get some cookies. And he is responsible for introducing me to coffee by the time I was in first grade. That’s why I still take it with sugar to this day.
(He also let me watch the original “Wolfman” movie, which greatly traumatized me!)
For the most part he was just a regular guy.
But when he preached, he did so with an unbelievable amount of passion and intensity. There was no doubt that he really believed what he was saying and it was the single most important thing in the world. It was truly a matter of life and death.
I knew that counted for something. And I decided, way back in first grade, “I want to do that.”
In the years that followed I had many moments and experiences that further clarified and solidified my decision.
Having a specific story about a moment of decision has been crucial for me.
I have times when I get discouraged and face criticism. There are days when I’m simply tired. I go through periods where it just seems easier to find a job where I can draw a check, clock out and turn off my brain at dinner time. There are seasons when things are not very fun and I wonder if what I’m doing is making any difference.
Honestly, I have many moments when I think about doing something else besides being a pastor.
This is why it’s been so crucial for me to have a specific story about my moments of decision.
It helps me to REMEMBER the WHEN.
I think it’s absolutely essential for every pastor to have a moment of decision when they willingly chose to pursue being a “pastor.”
It may have been a moment…
…during a prayer
…of invitation at camp or a conference
…through the influence of another pastor or friend
…when you heard a whisper from God
Do you have a story of a moment when you chose this?
Do you have a story of a moment when God chose you?
It gives me a REMINDER of WHY.
There are a lot of things that threaten to push me off track and distract me.
When I’m tempted to simply go through the motions and just get by, it’s been vital that I remember the “why.” Why did I choose this in the first place?
Being reminded of that has helped me regain my focus when it gets lost.
For me the “why” was always very simple.
– I wanted to teach and preach the most important news with urgency.
– I wanted to see people live the best life possible by following Jesus.
Why did you become a pastor?
Why are you still a pastor?
For me, the when and why have helped me to clarify my mission and return to my focus time and time again. They become advisors for what I do and what I don’t do.
“I will teach the truth of God’s Word in a spirit of grace so that people will live it out.”
It’s all I ever want to continue to do.