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Commentary: Call to ministry carries high standard

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James Lane
July 11, 2006

A UMNS Commentary
By James Lane*

God calls all people to ministry. As each one of us surrenders ourselves to serving God, a call is placed upon us. It is a lifelong call that you never retire from. From our day of surrender and resurrection on, we are God agents.

From the beginning of the Christian movement, the church has set aside, anointed and appointed people for leadership in this community of those called by God.

When a person responds to a calling by God to full-time ministry, he or she begins a lifelong struggle with that calling. Some respond right away, others deny the call, while still others delay their response.

Many have witnessed the “Hound of Heaven” pursuing them, nipping at their heels, until they completely surrender and respond to that “still, small voice.”

The United Methodist Church has established rules and built walls, seemingly insurmountable at times, over which those responding to a call must climb.

The United Methodist Church, rightfully so, I think, has established rules and expectations of those who present themselves for certification and ordination by the church. Some would deem it unfair, indeed, to set special rules and expectations, for these whom we put on this pedestal of ministry.

Rules like “celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage” might seem archaic and capricious to some. We deny ordination and appointment to practicing homosexuals. Some say that such an attitude is “gay bashing.”

What, indeed, is right and proper for the church to declare as an acceptable lifestyle while serving under ordination and appointment in our church? Well, with the calling come some very serious responsibilities. The primary responsibility is to live a life exemplary of the gospel of Jesus Christ before all the people. Like it or not, the pastor is always on a pedestal before the people.

We have all watched in horror as people have failed in this primary responsibility. Sexual liaisons within the community and congregation stun us to the core. We at the church are embarrassed and ashamed. We have seen infidelity to the marriage, addiction to drugs and alcohol and disregard of the covenant with the church rip at our very being as a community of faith.

Think of it as a pebble dropped into a lake. First, there is just the hole where the pebble goes in, and everything is OK. And then, you see one ripple and then another, and another, and on and on it goes. Friends, those ripples are people’s lives, now wrecked by the ripples of your pebble. One person after another is affected by the pebble that fell from the pedestal of trust and leadership. The ripples go on forever!

To those on the pedestal of leadership: Everyone is watching and observing. Babies, children, young, old — everyone! And they are watching 24/7/365. There are no off days when you assume the pedestal of leadership.

If un-Christian behavior is evident in the life of the pastor, it sends ripples all across the congregation and community. Unfortunately, you cannot reach down and pull the pebble back.

If we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will not do anything that will cause them to fall away from the faith. Leadership in the church demands such a lifestyle. Once you have been called out and set aside by the church and assumed the pedestal of leadership, hold tight to the pebble and do not drop it!

Can we trust you to do that?

*Lane, of Sherwood, Ark., is manager of the Arkansas United Methodist Official E-mail Network.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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