Union Ridge Church

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

by Reverend Dan on November 2, 2022
Come March of 2023, I’ll have been in pastoral ministry 25 years. During that time, I’ve had 11 interns. A ministry intern is someone who is exploring the possibility of going into ministry as a vocation. (In preacher terms, they’re “discerning the call.”) An intern shadows their mentor for nine months. They make pastoral visits and attend meetings (Ugh!) together. They read and discuss books, talk about diaconal ministries (non-pastoral vocational careers), learn the ins and outs of life around a church, and the intern gets the chance to preach several times. It’s kind of like a reality show for preacher wanna-be’s.

Every intern I’ve ever had has been unique with their own different set of gifts. And every one of them has eventually ended up in some type of vocational ministry (pastor, worship leader, youth pastor, chaplain, missionary.) As I near the end of my ministry, I wasn’t sure I’d have the chance to mentor someone again. That was, until one of the young people at our church spoke on Youth Sunday in June. But she didn’t just speak. She flat-out preached.

My first reaction that day was that I needed to be looking over my shoulder because my job may be in jeopardy. I even packed a few things in my office that afternoon to get a head start. But that feeling quickly morphed into a realization that is very comforting. When the time comes, I can walk away in peace. Just as with all the generations before mine, God is going to supply the church with pastors the same as He did the Israelites with judges. The church was here long before I came along, and it’ll be here long after I’m gone. Being reminded of that is helpful as the light at the end of my pulpit tunnel gets brighter. Some pastors (and congregation members) like to believe that without them, the church will fall apart. I’m just the opposite. I believe that the church is going to keep getting better and better because the person that comes after me will be more gifted than I was with new ideas to move the church forward. If any church believes that without its pastor or certain congregation members things will fall apart, they need to re-read their Bible. We are just stewards for a short time, under-shepherds of a flock for a brief second in God’s eternity. The church is about God first, the people second, and in the words of Gale Sayers, “I am third.”

Since that day, I've come to realize that with my last intern, I’m the one God is blessing. Maybe I’ll help her in some small way, but this one is for me. This young lady is special. She’s only 17 years-old but has the spiritual maturity of someone many times her age. She’s a gifted speaker. She has a deep insight into human nature. She stays immersed in scripture. And she already has the heart of a pastor. As a result, in the first month, I’m afraid she’s been cheated because I’ve learned and received much more than she has. She’s comfortable with the person God has made her; now she just wants to know how to give back to God. I wish I had been that mature at 17. Or 40. Or yesterday.

Over the years I’ve come to feel for the people who say the church of tomorrow is in trouble because we’re not raising up leaders. If the church of tomorrow is in trouble, it’s because the people who say that don’t trust that God is in control. The new pastors my not look or do things like my generation does, but that’s okay. We don’t look or do things like the generation before us did. (For example, I preached in jeans on Sunday, and no I don’t think I’m going to hell for it.) The truth is that the young people are not the church of tomorrow; they’re part of the church of today. The only way they won’t be around tomorrow is if we disenfranchise them by taking away their voice.
Folks, don’t worry about the church. Every day – multiple times a day - I talk to the architect who designed and built it. It's made to last until His Son comes back to claim His bride. Therefore in the interim, He’ll raise up new leaders to shepherd and steward it until that day comes. God’s good like that.