So on Friday I talked about how an itinerant system of ministry is weird. But is it really?
I really don’t know much about the environment in corporate America, but I talk to people all the time about job insecurity and the effects of a declining economy and globalization. Longevity in one company is rare anymore, and finding a job becomes far more difficult if you chose to only live in one place. This is the tension that so many Americans live with.
And if I were to compare the itinerant system in the United Methodist Church with other churches, I would guess that there is just as much uncertainty…if not more. The Christian Church in America is declining on the whole. Churches are declining, closing, and merging, creating less jobs. When the Church was thriving, vocational ministry was a pretty wide net; less was demanded of its leaders. What demand is there on a pastor when the Church is the major social outlet of society? Swing open the doors and keep people happy. Nowadays the pressure is on. Outreach and growth are the heralded ministries. You’re either effective or ineffective. People less gifted in the past still had plenty of work…now they are choosing other careers. My point is, the uncertainty of having a job in a church or staying in one place is not as weird anymore.
I want to be clear…I’m not arguing which is the best system, or that itinerancy is the best, or that we have it all down pat in the UMC. I’m simply wondering if having one place that I can call home for the rest of my career or life is unrealistic in both an itinerant system and non-itinerant system.
So what does this mean?
First, it challenges me to remember that vocational ministry is a call more than it is a job. Second, it begs me to consider that the model of “resident pastor” in a particular place is no longer viable, and I must draw upon the “missionary” perspective. Third, it forces me to consider my faith and trust in Christ, who has called me and appointed me to this work. And fourth, it reminds me that I must take one day at a time.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Those were the words that rang in my heart as I was once considering what God wanted me to do with my life. Weeks later it was evident that I was called to be in vocational ministry. I didn’t realize those were the words I will need to draw upon for the rest of my career.