Sometimes people sense a call to be a church leader through some sort of mystical experience, but most of the time it’s something much more mundane than that. It’s when a pastor says, “Have you ever thought about going into the ministry?”
And you look behind your shoulder and think, “Surely, she must have me mistaken for someone else.”
But the question sticks to the back of your neck. It starts to follow you around with some persistence. Then, you think about it so much that the question crawls inside of you. You try to ignore it, you try to fight it, but it’s there, until it begins to feel at home inside of you.
We have to explain over and over again how we got into the job to anxious committees in the ordination process, to interested interviewers in our church searches, to confused friends at loud parties. Sometimes we tell the truth, but most of the time we tell half of it. Because there are those moments that we can point to, and then there are the moments that we’d rather not point to.
Sometimes negative things woo us into our unlikely professions. Like that time when we’re sitting in church, listening to a sermon that really, really sucks and we think, I could do better than that.
Here are a couple of moments for me:
I was twenty years old, in Uganda, visiting with a group of thirty students as part of an internship with my evangelical Bible school. I was working with the Anglican Church and somehow, I ended up being one of the main speakers. By the end of the summer, I was preaching three to four times a day. Along the line, the Archbishop of the region dropped the name “Carol” and just started calling me “Preacher Lady.”
He would say it often and loud, with a wide smile and devious eyes. And his voice, which could easily be confused with James Earl Jones’, seemed to echo inside of me. He was educated in Cambridge and had no qualms with women clergy, but it was scandalous to me, as well as my Bible school classmates.
“Aaahhh yes…here comes the Preacher Lady. That’s a good outfit. Befitting of a preacher,” his voice would boom in front of the group of students. I turned pink. “You need to sit in the front seat of the jeep. The preacher always sits in the front.” I turned deep red and ducked into the seat while he laughed and laughed. I felt like a Bible school girl who was hiding a bottle of whiskey in her duffle bag.
There were many negative things that propelled me as well. A couple of years after my trip to Uganda, I finally gathered the nerve to apply for seminary. As I was collecting referrals, one of my references told me (after he sent in my forms) that I didn’t have the intelligence to go to seminary.
At first I swallowed the statement whole, and it sat in the pit of my stomach, like a rock, grating heavily. It scared me. It haunted me. After a couple of years (it takes me a while…), it made me angry. Then, finally, after graduating from seminary, I realized that he was wrong. But one thing’s for sure, throughout every stage of the process, that one statement propelled me. I really, really wanted to prove that he was wrong and that I was smart enough.
So, what’s your story? What motivated you? What inspired you? What made you angry? Why are you a church leader? What’s your weird story that you would never tell a committee?
the photo’s by youngrobv