Having just passed the five-year marker in my sojourn in W. Central Illinois (and also five years in the Ministry), I have been thinking of the “highs” and “woes” that come with such a milestone. “Highs” include the following:
- No pastor here has made it this long since, like, the seventies I think.
- It has taken about five years, but I think my dear wife and I have learned contentment in the midst of frequently challenging circumstances.
- There have been some very good changes here in the last five years: weekly communion; exclusive use of the chalice at one congregation; earlier service time to make room for Bible class between services; a deeper appreciation for the liturgy has been fostered among the faithful; among other things.
- I think that we have helped at least one of the congregations develop a more positive reputation in the community.
- I have learned a little bit of humility.
- I have developed a good relationship with a few of the youth here.
- I have been able to be involved with some service opportunities in the community, such as the Library Board.
- After five years, aside from feeding the faithful with the pure Word of God, I feel like I have accomplished little in the way of extending the kingdom.
- At one congregation we have half the number attending regularly than when I first arrived (When I first arrived we averaged around 40; now we are at around 20)
- We have lost several families to the local E.L.C.A. church (I think half of their members originally came from one of these two congregations over the last 20 yrs.).
- I do not feel like I have a firmer grasp of the task of a pastor than I did five years ago. In fact, I would say that I feel more unsure of myself now than I did five years ago.
I’m sure I could list some other things under both of these, but this is all that is coming to me at the moment. I’m a little down in the dumps and cynical today about the whole thing. I mean, what have I really done these last five years? I suppose the theological answer would be: nothing–God has done it all. And this would be right, except for the mistakes that I have made or the stumbling that I have caused others. Perhaps my expectations were misplaced. When I came here I really thought that people would love to hear good theology. I thought that people would rejoice in it, like I did. I guess that was naive. Thank God for those who are faithful hearers of the Word! What would I do without them?