Reform School 1: The Co-missioned Pastor (aka The Power of a Hyphen)
I was co-missioned (notice the hyphen) and commissioned to the role of Lead Pastor of Elmhurst CRC on Sunday, September 24th. It’s a day that will shine bright in my memory!
I was born into this world as an especially attention-seeking human. As the youngest of five siblings, I spent much of my childhood energy trying to get bigger people to notice me. This is not a good habit around which to organize a life. When I discovered as a young kid that I had inherited some musical abilities from my mom, I felt confident that I had found my life’s direction. Nothing earns a kid quicker adulation than dancing and singing for grownups. I thought I had it made.
As a teen, I marshalled my creative energies into becoming the most excellent performer I could be. I settled on an obscure instrument, the bassoon, because I intuited that my star could shine more brightly in such a small talent pool. On one occasion as a middle schooler, my parents sat me down over their shared concern that I was spending too much time practicing music. My anger boiled over and I yelled, “What’s wrong with wanting to be the best at something?!?” Lord, have mercy....
It was years later, in college, that I experienced what I now call a “second conversion.” I already loved Jesus, but I had not yet fully laid my preferred future and musical pursuits at his feet. When I finally did, God let me know that his design for music was to draw people together. I had spent years trying to get my ego to the top of the musical mountain. God showed me that I had missed the target by a mile.
After this revelation and some time to accept the transformative implications, I was led to redirect my musical energies toward helping people sing together. Less individual performance, more music theory. Less time alone in the practice room, more time rehearsing with others. To this day, my chief musical delight is being around ordinary people singing together. When people sing together the world becomes—albeit briefly—the way it should be. One reason I LOVE the church is that it is one of few oasis in society where this sign of peace and togetherness regularly occurs.
In short, I learned that music is always something that is done better together. Which brings me back to the word, co-mission (that hypen again!). Without the hyphen, to “commission” simply means to “charge with a task or responsibility.” Without a doubt, I have to be commissioned to be a pastor in that sense. I fully embrace the leadership role, responsibility and trust that’s been given me. Humbling and awesome.
But I have also been “co-missioned” as a pastor. The addition of that little hyphen is the equivalent of my musical conversion. The hyphen implies that I am not alone on some pastoral, spiritual mountain top by myself as a fancy pastor, but that I am alongside and along with those that I’m called to serve.
Just as in making music, serving the Church and serving the world are always done better together. As a lead pastor, I’m just a lead servant. Certainly there are tasks and responsibilities that are mine to shoulder, no doubt. But the possibilities that gets my spiritual pulse to quicken all involve helping to spur on co-missional behaviors and possibilities in the church.
For example: When generations come together in a unified way. What could happen if we co-missioned the wisdom of the old along with the passion of the young?
Or… if we more intentionally co-mission the good gifts of our Reformed tradition along with the good gifts of other Christian traditions that are increasingly present in our congregation and community?
Or… what could happen if we even more fully co-missioned the “blessed alliance” of men and women working and serving side by side in every facet of church life?
My personal story of transformation is one in which God rescued (and is rescuing) me from a merely personal pursuit of perfection into the deeper spiritual truth that in the Body of Christ we are better together. There’s a lot of power in one little hyphen. We are co-missioned!
Semper Reformanda! (Latin for: We are always reforming!)