Pastor as Plumber

There are a lot of things they teach you in Seminary.  Licensing school covers the basics.    Continued education is helping broaden my theological backing.  But there are jobs I have that weren't part of my education.

When St. Paul talks about being all things to all people I wonder if he considered toilet duty.  Every job can have aspects to it that we choose to make a part of our role or not.  I'm pretty sure working on a toilet is something HR would consider outside my responsibilities, but it doesn't have to be.

While I was at Riverchase United Methodist Church we were hesitant to assign job descriptions, for fear that employees would stay inside their "box" and not do other things that needed to be done.  Not everyone can thrive in that kind of environment but it suited me quite well because I was more than happy to find ways to help others out (assuming it didn't impede on my real responsibilities).  It also often meant that I had other colleagues who were willing to help.  Sure, we had roles to play.  But those roles may or may not involve setting up chairs or cleaning the kitchen.

Sadly, Christians in America aren't known for getting outside their perceived job description.  This leads to two unfortunate realities:

1.) We cheapen what it means to follow Jesus.
2.) We confuse who our job is for.

When I say we cheapen following Jesus I mean that at worst, "following Jesus" means adhering at all costs to a few fundamentals.  At best, it means we passionately do our job so well that we stop letting Jesus be Jesus (why do we need a Savior when I'm so good at my job?).  I sometimes fall to the temptation to simplify my spiritual life to a check-list.  I may even focus so heavily on a certain aspect of Jesus' life that I neglect others.  For example: some love Jesus' death so much that they don't pay a lick of attention to how he lived his life.  The Resurrection is so fantabulous that we dismiss the cross and how Jesus got there.  Our job description as Christians should encompass the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That's right.  I just implied fixing toilets is something Jesus would have done.

When I say we confuse who our job is for I mean the focus is all messed up with the purpose.  Call it the "works versus faith" debate that we sometimes fall into.  You don't even have to go to the Bible though, what about America?  All this talk in America about jobs implies (always) that our jobs are for us.  We work so we can have.  Money doesn't grow on trees and that house won't pay for itself.  So get out there, work your tail off for 50 years, and then you get to retire and really enjoy life (or so they say).  Our jobs are never for the government, the company, or those who are buying the products.*  It is always for me.

This is not what being a Christian is about.  It is much healthier theology to be Christian for other reasons than the retirement plan.  Who is the job for?  Lots of folks, actually.  Let's start with God.  God's love is so big that this "black whole" of grace sucks us in and invites us to participate.  Our job as Christians is for God's glory.  Moving on: others.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  When I do my "job" as a Christian I really am working for the benefit of others.  Not because they'll return the favor later, but because they need the love!  And yes, we can take comfort in the fact that the job is for me.  We find great joy when we are right where God wants us.  Humans were created to participate in life and enjoy the work of our hands, not simply consume and store.  We were meant to be co-creators with God.  I tried to fix the toilet at the Chapel because I knew people needed to use it, not because Birmingham-Southern pays me to do that.  Sure, BSC would approve, but I considered it necessary for a good evening at Chapel - not making the General happy.

I talk about me fixing toilets because the situation is analogous to how we follow Christ.  I have every reason to tell myself (and the people who pointed it out to me), "Sorry, that is someone else's job."  I'd love to see followers of Christ either broaden their idea of what Jesus wants us to do in this world OR refocus on who reaps the rewards for our service.

Either way, maintenance had to come in behind me anyhow. :)


As an aside, it has been a while since I've done my "Pastor as..." posts.  Frankly, Pastor as Chaplain has really been a learning curve and I've been busy. :)

* - I'm not naive.  There are people out there who love what they do and do it for others.  I'm just saying that retail isn't for everyone and most only do it because they have to.  Everyone knows someone who could make sprockets for the rest of their lives and take great pride in it and finds deep meaning to it.  That just isn't the norm.