"So you’ve made it? Reached the pinnacle of your career?"
Well, no, in fact. For two reasons.
This weekend I’m ordained by my church as Senior Pastor. I’m truly thrilled by the fact. But that doesn’t actually blind me to a few realities; like the fact that this is a small church in a small town in a small country. I’m a big fish all right – in an itty-bitty fishpond. It’s not like I haven’t worked hard, or aren’t skilled and knowledgable or have a lousy personality and so aren’t capable of more. I’m pretty normal in all those respects. But this is where I happen to be called; this is home. So it can hardly be called the peak of the profession. There are much higher spots on the mountain than where I’m perched. Even in this small town there are churches that are bigger, richer, and brighter than mine. And that’s just fine.
But the other reason is that the whole question is just wrong-headed. If the point is to climb the mountain and be bigger, brighter, and richer that the others, then this is the wrong profession entirely! If the aim is to be ‘The Man’ in front of a crowd of thousands, then I’m looking in the wrong direction. As far as I can see from what Jesus taught, by his words and actions, my job is not about ‘success’ but faithfulness.
So this is a rather different picture. There is no ‘peak’ with the ‘successful pastor’ at the top. There is not one church member who is significantly ‘better’ or ‘higher’ than their peers, when examined in the light of heaven. We all come in at about the same point on the only scale that matters: "How Christ-like are you?" Not very. From that perspective, I won’t ever reach the ‘peak’.
I’m not attempting to climb some fixed monument to human achievement, trying to attain to some certain position. What I am doing is walking a road with an end. And one day, I will come to the end of the road. In walking this road, I’m in good company; all the other ‘not-very-Christ-like’ characters who have also decided to walk this way. We are ‘the church’. We’re not terribly well organised a lot of the time; we squabble occasionally, and lurch drunkenly from one side of the path to the other, but in the main we keep going. And we’re going together. Some ahead, some behind, one road, one end. And incidentally, the Christ we follow walks with us too; often incognito.
It’s always lonely on the peak, but there’s always good company on the road. It’s a privilege to walk this way.