It absolutely amazes me, and of course I realise I look far too young for it to be the case, but today is the 40th anniversary of me conducting a full-time itinerant Bible teaching and pastoral ministry. On May 8th 1976, instead of turning up at the insurance company I was then working for, having previously handed in my notice, I embarked on what has thus far been 40 years of helping to both start, and nurture, churches. Four decades of excitement, disappointment, ups, downs, elation, despair, fun, sorrow, laughter and tears in functioning as what I tend to refer to as an Ephesians 4 pastor/teacher. Throw in as well that I have been an elder in the church I am part of for 30 years and it kind of makes clear the sort of my time has been primarily given to all these years.
Fundamental to what I do though is ensuring that people realise that being occupied in the way that I am is not more innately spiritual or special than whatever occupation they are engaged in. Being a bank manager or a construction worker, or a train driver (my personal favourite) or an engineer, or a toilet cleaner or a brain surgeon or, and this is the most important and honourable occupation of them all, a housewife and mother, is as much the ‘ministry’ one is called to as is mine. None, with the exception of motherhood are, of themselves, more important than any other. It’s what the old divine’s referred to as the sacred-secular divide; the idea that praying, or evangelising, or reading the Bible, or speaking in tongues, or going to church (or whatever) is somehow more spiritual than stuff like doing the dishes, eating dinner or playing with your kids. It is, of course, a perfectly nonsensical and utterly unbiblical notion, and if a definition of spirituality can be said to be that which the living God is doing through His people in whom He lives, then washing the dishes and playing with our kids is definitely as much on His ‘to do’ list as is enabling us to pray, witness to unbelievers, speak in tongues and all that sort of thing.
So hey, in that regard I am actually far less spiritual than I used to be, the Lord having significantly freed me over the years from the pharisaical religiosity and self-righteousness that, ironically, being born again can actually bring very much to the forefront in our lives. Not that such sin is actually caused by being born again, of course not, but simply because when we become believers our sinfulness changes shape and adapts itself to a more ‘spiritual’ expression. Thus folk who were once blasphemers, drunks and immoral can end up instead being legalistic and religiously proud carnal and hypocritical Christians.
40 years! Man, I’m tired just thinking about it! 40 years of making just about every mistake it was possible for me to make, and four decades of learning my ‘craft’ through pretty much constantly getting things wrong and having to put them right. But then, isn’t that what the Lord’s grace is all about? Isn’t that true pretty much of all of us? I suppose if one’s occupation is fixing peoples cars, or installing heating and cooling systems, or driving trains (still my personal favourite) then I guess you can get pretty good at it. But when part of one’s ‘job description’ is, for instance, being an example to those around of godliness, then I rather have to hang my head in shame, admit that I’m not very good at it, and just point folk to Jesus. I guess it’s really just another way of saying that you are probably a lot better at your occupation than I am at mine, but as long as we are doing what our hands have been put to with all our might, and genuinely hungering and thirsting after righteousness, then the grace of the Lord will take care of the rest.
Happy anniversary to me,
Happy anniversary to me,
Happy anniversary dear Beresford…………….!!!