I am sitting in a friend's house in Tennessee right now and I am lamenting the inevitable return trip to Oregon--not because I don't like my home in Oregon, but because I feel like this is family here on the side of the country I didn't know until 2005. The trip back east was a trip that would allow us to catch up with friends and see some things we hadn't seen in three years. The funny thing is that we tried to hurry our time while I was in school here so we could leave and go to the west coast, but in the meantime we developed relationships with some great people who understood us and loved us for who we are.
Really this trip did a few things: we did catch up with friends, my daughter was baptized in the creek I baptized a few of my youth kids, we said goodbye to our son who rests in a cemetery in town, and we refocused our motivation for ministry by going back to the source of our passion. We met God in ministry here in Tennessee and North Carolina. I learned how to talk to youth and their families about how to live for God in times that are tough. This is where I worked with God in tandem as His servant and learned to lean on His power for strength and guidance. It seems like being on the west coast I have drifted from that kind of focus because I was leaning on my power and my strength to guide me through the process of building a church and a ministry. It's nice to know that God's power is strong enough to handle anything that comes along and an accessibility that is ready any time I need it. I originally thought that this would be a trip about grief, but it isn't. Our time here has had its share of grief but it was really about remembering what I was trained to do in ministry.
I have been called to be a "pastor" in Oregon because that's what all of the preachers are called. I know "splitting hairs" is what I do most of the time, so I'm going to do it again here: a pastor is a guide and people in Southern Oregon want to be guided in their faith in a way that makes it the pastor's faith and not the individual's. I don't feel like our church needs a pastor because we have a guide in the Bible and the other people of faith who preceded us to show us the way. The church needs a "minister" instead because a "minister" serves the church and the people of the church in the capacities that are needed. I always strive to be a minister of the Gospel and I'm not going to pretend that I'm a "pastor" because I am not morally superior to those in my flock and God doesn't love me more. I am glad to see that I am in partnership with the faithful at the corner of 2nd and B and if it took a trip back east, then God knows what He's doing on this trip in showing me my roots of faith and the potential for a fantastic ministry in Southern Oregon.