The Unavoidable Crucifixion, or: Reflections On The Beginnings of My Vocation

In Seminary, Andrew Purves taught us in his pastoral care/theology courses that the ministry of the pastor needs to be crucified, so that Christ’s ministry might flourish in him/her. In other words, the role of the pastor is not to trust in their own skills, but rather to bear witness to the work of the living Christ in the life of a congregation, community and world. As I learned this, it made sense to me. In fact, I considered it gospel. What great news that “my ministry” is not really mine at all, but Christ in me.

What I’m quickly learning is that the “crucifixion of ministry” is a painful, unavoidable experience. As I learned from Dr. Purves, I think I was assuming that learning about the need for my ministry to be crucified with Christ meant that it would somehow be less painful, or not painful at all. Or maybe I thought that I could somehow avoid the crucifixion piece of things and get straight to the risen Christ in me. This was just foolishness. Crucifixion hurts, and knowing that it’s coming doesn’t change that. Just ask Jesus.

As Chris and I, along with the rest of the seed group, have begun the work of church-planting, I’ve been finding ministry to be an incredibly emotionally-probing experience. Every day, I keep encountering my weaknesses, limitations and sin-problems, and as I do, the Spirit has also been bringing back to mind experiences in my past that have contributed to, and perhaps even caused, these particular limitations in my life. This increased self-awareness has not, however, been coupled with knowledge of solutions to my problems. In fact, at times I get so overwhelmed by my pride, selfish need for affirmation, and ‘introvertedness’ (among other limitations) that I begin to question why God would even call someone like me to church-planting in Squirrel Hill. To put it another way, I’m finding myself being crucified, and longing for resurrection to come.

This morning, I think I found the first glimmer of resurrection in my personal devotional time. I was reading Psalm 37, and verse 3 stood out to me: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” I think I’ll be reciting this verse for a while. Even if I don’t understand why I’m here, I’ll continue to “dwell in the land,” trusting in the LORD, doing good, and befriending faithfulness, with the hope and prayer that I’ll be a vessel through which Christ works.