Tuesday, July 24, 2007

That ol' sinful nature

As a new and young pastor I often do not "feel" like I'm really a pastor. I worried about this a lot before ordination. How could I possibly minister to my "elders" with God's Law and His Gospel? Would my congregation take me seriously?

Now that I am out here, I have found the most amazing reversal of my expectations. My beloved parish has no problem accepting me and has always shown the uptmost respect for the Office and for me. What is really surprising is other pastors. I feel so out of place whenever there is a gathering of pastors. Some don't speak to me at all (a few have actually ignored me when I spoke to them!) Some are a bit condescending. Some act suspicious of the "new guy." But, overall, most don't seem to want to take any time at all to even acknowledge me.

I have to say, that ol' sinful nature really gets hurt by this. I want to be accepted by my older brothers. I really want to just sit down and talk with them openly and honestly. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple around me who have been just great.

To other newbies, has this been your experience? Am I overreacting? Is this unusual? Is there something wrong with me?


jWinters said...

Hey Jim, I'm on a slow re-entry into the blogging world but I had to comment on this one when I saw it.

Yeah - the parishioners at my church don't seem to have a problem of accepting me as pastor even though I'm like 30 years younger than the last guy here. I think part of what helps with that is the rigors of a CSL education. I really wonder what it is like for non-denom pastors that aren't held to the same academic requirements. I wonder if they're accepted just as easily or if they have to do some more "proving themselves." That, and I'm trying not to rest on my laurels. I think they scared me at the sem with the "honeymoon period" talk. I'm interested in seeing how this many be similar/different than now.

With older pastors, yeah again. Even during my ordination there was a crack or two. Still, I think it's just like joining any sort of "fraternity." I think we really have to earn our chops with our peers. That, and there is some uncomfortableness because they may not know where to "draw the line" from "older mentor pastor" and "brother in ministry".

You know the verse that I'm thinking of though: "Let no one look down on you because of your age..."

in Christ,

Jim Roemke said...

I'm with you on the honeymoonphobia. I keep waiting for it to end when I should be thanking God for His good gifts to me and expecting nothing other than His blessings. It's always a fine line between being informed and wise and sinfully worried and disdainful of God's providence in all things.

I really love being a pastor, but there are times of depression and doubt. Today the old evil foe was using every trick in the book to try to sink me into despair. I think it is important, especially for young pastors, to be aware of Satan's attacks on God's servants. No matter how prepared we are, the only thing that can stand up to those attacks is a prayer life firmly founded in the Word and constantly looking at the Cross (you should see my study! You can't look anywhere without the precious cross of Christ reminding me of His love for me!)

So, I will pray for you as I hope you will do for me. We have been given a great blessing in our calling, but without God's continual intervention it will only be a curse.

William Weedon said...

Father Jim,

Here's my first experience at a Winkel: pastor of the largest church in the circuit looks at me and asks outloud to the group, "So, why are new seminary graduates so judgmental and legalistic?"

I didn't have the first clue what to say, what to do. I remember thinking: "And it's good to be here too." But I think I just turned away and started trying to talk to another brother. It was definitely awkward!

He and I later became quite cordial and even friends, but it was most certainly a rough start. So I remember the awkwardness and the pain of isolation. Can I suggest a practical solution of sorts? YOU start up a weekly pericopal study group (assuming there's not one going on nearby) and invite the other pastors to join you. I did that here in Hamel and it's been such a blessing ever since. As you sit down with them week after week over the word, and then go out to eat, and share the burdens of ministry together, you'll grow close to them and be supported in a way you never dreamed possible and you'll support them too!

David said...

Brother James:

I do not want to start a flame war between seminaries, but I wonder if it would be worse if you were a Fort Wayne graduate.

The letters "FW" have such a stigma of legalistic, ueber-confessional, ueber-liturgical, anti-flexible, and anti-synodical that many brother pastors just ignore a FW graduate or lecture him about the "real world" and about "meeting the people at their own level" or some other comment about leaving their ivory tower of confessionalism and becoming more down to earth.

There is a time and place for such comments. There is also a time and place for encouragement and love, especially for the newly ordained and installed candidate. The first 2-3 years can be wonderful, but they can also be a challenge. I know more than one pastor that was "run off" in less than two years for being himself without compromising Holy Scripture or the Symbols. Thanks be to God those numbers are quite small.

Brother, you and the other "newbies" have my prayers. I ask for yours, too, as I just passed five years in the Holy Preaching Office.

Preachrboy said...

On the day of my installation the pastors were vesting in a room together when one older pastor arrived and upon seeing me for the first time, before any introductions or other pleasantries, exclaimed, "You're Young!"

Nice to meet you too.

Jim, I think one of the most insightful comments you made about this problem as we discussed it was that (paraphrasing) some (less traditional) pastors are suspicious of you because you have that "smells and bells" aroma.

While others feel that "ordination isn't enough" and that you have to "prove yourself" as a true confessional Lutheran.

Truly a sad problem, but such is life in the Missouri Synod.

Paul T. McCain said...

Dear Pastor!

One's feelings tend to catch up with reality more slowly than would be hoped. It is somewhat akin to being married. How long did it take you to "feel" married?

I suspect that as you have opportunity to be a pastor, you'll feel more and more like a pastor.

When the folks come knocking, or calling, with a personal issue and problem, looking to you to be their shepherd, you'll feel more like a pastor.

When you baptize those babies, and tuck the bodies God's older servants into the earth awaiting the day of resurrection, you'll feel more like a pastor.

When you come to your people as they lay in their hospital bed, or sick bed, or in their death bed and you see the look on their face as they see you coming to them representing their Lord Jesus, oh, you'll feel like a pastor.

When a crisis arises, of any shape or description and you are called, you will go, and you will be the pastor to them and deliver to them the comfort of God's Word. You'll feel like a pastor, because you are a pastor.

And you will, in so feeling, be led even more deeply to pray for strength, wisdom, patience and guidance.

God bless your ministry, Pastor.


Jim Roemke said...

Pr. Weedon-
Thanks for the words of encouragement and advice. I do have one really great friend in the ministry. He was ordained last year. We meet weekly for breakfast and then go make confession together. That is a fantastic blessing.
Thanks for the prayers. I think there may be some differentiation between FW and STL grads, but as soon as people see you "confessional" things the comments and "advise" to live in the "real-world" start raining down like a monsoon!
No matter how much I tell myself that no one should look down on me because of my age, they still do and it still is mildly annoying to down-right hurtful.
My congregation could not be better. I always feel like their pastor, its just when I'm around other pastors that I feel out of place. There is no greater blessing than serving God's people with His good gifts of Word and Sacrament. It is the most indescribably wonderful thing and I am constantly amazed that I get to do it every week.
Thank you all for the words of encouragement.

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