On January 20, 2013 I will be installed as the lead pastor of Oakdale Wesleyan Church, and as the date approaches many thoughts have crossed my mind. Although we, the involved parties, just picked the first available Sunday in January, that date happened to fall on Inauguration Day for President Barack Obama’s second term, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend. I do not place myself on the level of the first African-American president of the U.S. nor the leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, but I am honored to share, and find significance in sharing, their day.
Yet, not only positive thoughts of Kingdom work and legacy crossed my mind. I wondered if I had waited too long or not pushed out enough in faith earlier in my life to see this day. I have done some form of pastoral ministry since I was 17, starting as a church youth director. All this time, I have always held a full- or part-time secular job, and been working on some type of certificate, university, or seminary degree, in addition to the last 8+ years building my family. Some guys I attended high school youth group with jumped into full-time ministry right after completing their undergraduate work at the local unaccredited Bible college many of us attended. Now that I am finally getting a lead pastor position, I questioned if I had spent more time preparing than doing.
Then I read The New Yorker article on Rob Bell, entitled “The Hell-Raiser,”and it moved me to give thanks. After reading about how Bell’s ministry went through the roof while he was so young, the mistakes I feel he made, and where he is now, I give thanks that God is calling me later in the game of my life, more like the Apostle Paul (who nobody would accused of being uneducated, ungodly, unwise, or unproductive as a Christian) rather than John-Mark (who needed a restart). I don’t claim to have the gifts of Paul, or even Bell, but I am way more prepared now than I was at 21, even though I thought I was ready then.
People have been asking if I am scared or nervous, and my answer is, “No.” This is not a matter of pride or naivete, of course I still have things to learn, improve in, and will make mistakes, but God and I have been preparing for this for my whole life. Students who have studied and prepared for a test usually have no reason to be nervous on examination day, and God is a great tutor.
©2013 Paul Tillman