"So when are you ‘flock-worthy’?” a friend asked me. She wanted to know when I would be ready to lead a congregation. It’s a good question.
A few years ago each one of this year’s potential candidates for ministry entered seminary. We weren’t sure what was going to happen. We knew we’d be expected to learn Greek, Hebrew, theology, history, apologetics, pastoral care, preaching, and more. We knew that seminary would be challenging, frustrating, and difficult. Well-meaning people had told us so.
We also knew that we were experts already—that seminary was just a hoop standing between us and our calling. Seminary was a three- or four-year detour on the way to doing God’s will. We knew what the seminary was supposed to teach us and wasn’t teaching us. We knew how the seminary could do a better job.
In other words, we had a lot to learn.
The Calvin Theological Seminary Candidacy Committee watched us from our first year to our last. Most of the time they observed silently. Sometimes they prodded. Occasionally, they made unexpected recommendations. We tried to ignore those recommendations. Sometimes we fought them. Eventually all of us found a way to fulfill them. All the while, the flock-worthy determination crew, that is, the Candidacy Committee, watched and waited.
They heard about our disastrous first attempts at sermon writing. They watched our videotaped pastoral care sessions with thinly veiled grimaces. They heard our protests and listened to our suggestions. They watched and they waited.
The unexpected began to happen. We began to see our faith differently, our calling differently, our actions differently, and the seminary differently. Somehow, through the coursework, through the internships, through the many meetings in professors’ offices and pastors’ studies, God began a good work in us. Our rough edges got a little smoother. Our first feeble attempts at preaching were replaced with ever more confident and competent deliveries. We learned to listen a bit more in our pastoral care sessions. We began to look more and more like pastors-to-be.
And still the Candidacy Committee watched and waited. Somehow they knew something bigger had to happen—a transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit. When the time was right, when they saw the changes they expected to see, they recommended us to synod. We were interviewed by the Synodical Candidacy Committee.
For the first time, we appeared before representatives of the Christian Reformed Church. Those representatives, speaking for the church upon completion of our interviews, looked us in the eyes and said, “Yes. We have seen the work God has begun in your life. We will recommend you as a candidate.” In that closed room we heard the church affirm our calling.
So am I flock-worthy? To be sure, the local congregation will ultimately make that decision. I do know this: I will now expect the unexpected changes that come through being faithful.
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Don’t miss this week’s must-read articles:
- Tell A Better Story
- ‘Rebirth’ for a Wisconsin Church
- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight