Serving as a Christian Minister in a 5-4 World

On Friday, June 26, the Supreme Court ruled that the U. S. Constitution supports the right to same-sex marriage. The 5-4 decision split the high court along familiar liberal/conservative lines with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the decisive vote.

DividedThe 5-4 vote vividly illustrates the deep divide that runs through our nation, denominations, and local congregations. The current presenting issue is same-sex marriage, but similar divisions exist in debates about politics, immigration, gun-control, health care, fiscal policies, social programs, capital punishment, abortion, and more.

Now imagine serving as a Christian minister in a “5-4 world”. (I would love to take credit for that turn of phrase, but it’s not original unto me. However, I cannot determine the original source. Preaching professor, Dr. Fred Craddock, always said: “Whoever steals from me steals twice!”)

It’s my privilege to serve as one of the pastors of the First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville. Founded in 1823, the congregation continues to faithfully serve our community. Our mission statement declares: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ who Love God, Love Others, and Reach the World.

Our church roll lists two thousand, nine hundred, and some odd members—some odder than others. The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Baby Busters, and Generations XYZ all serve together in Christian unity . . . sometimes.

However, I serve a diverse congregation that includes: males, females, children, youth, adults, liberals, moderates, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Anglos, Hispanics, African-Americans, Central Europeans, pro-choice, pro-life, heterosexuals, homosexuals, traditional families, non-traditional families, agnostics, seekers, believers, Apple, PC, I-Phone, Android . . . .

I pastored Mount Carmel United Methodist Church fresh out of seminary. During a Sunday morning worship service, I made the rookie mistake of asking: “Is it too warm in here?” Half the congregation adamantly agreed the sanctuary felt too hot while the other half complained it was too cold! The scene provides a microcosm of church life.

Serving as a Christian minister in a 5-4 world means balancing the roles of prophet and pastor.

Prophets boldly proclaim God’s Word, letting the chips fall where they may. John-the-Baptist-wantabes don’t hesitate to call the crowds “broods of vipers” that are hell-bent and hell-bound unless they change their sinful ways. Prophets often live in a black and white world where law trumps grace.

Pastors minister to the deep hurts and needs of their parish. Like a shepherd caring for sheep, pastors walk in the midst of the people as a servant among servants. Wounded themselves, pastors serve as wounded healers in ministry to others. They work in a black and white world that often blends into grey. Law provides the parameters of discipleship, but grace always speaks the first and last word.

Serving as a pastor in a 5-4 world offers dangers, challenges, and opportunities. At times, it feels like I’m standing on the railroad tracks as a train rumbles around the curve. It’s the place where law and grace meet and even collide. However, it’s also the realm where genuine ministry takes place.

Serving as a pastor in a 5-4 world does not lend itself to a life of comfort, but I cannot find a single place in the Bible where Jesus called his disciples to a comfortable world. Real ministry occurs in real life where God’s Word and our world intersect. Odds are this is where we’ll find the Lord already at work.


7 thoughts on “Serving as a Christian Minister in a 5-4 World

  1. Pastor Bill, thanks for your words. Thanks for taking the time to share so much with us. Whenever there is something that needs public opinions especially when it relates to the church my grandmother aways said “Jesus is coming soon you better prepare yourself to meet Him.” This is where we are at now. Seek Him in the WORD and listen for that still small Voice.


  2. This is why my pastors are on the top of my prayer list. I agree with Jim. Keep proclaiming the Good News to a world that needs to hear but often doesn’t.


  3. I want more of the Prophet in the pulpit. I want to hear what the Bible says on a subject even though it may not be politically correct and even if it may be hurtful to some or even to myself. It is better that we be true to the Lord and His Word than be accepted by the world. We should want to know what is and what is not a sin so that we, sinners every one of us (including me), can ask forgiveness and go and sin no more. We are to love the sinner but hate the sin.


  4. REAL ministry in a REAL life? REALLY? (Reference your sermon from last Sunday.) We look up to those who boldly proclaim God’s word in the midst of controversy. Even pastors burn a little more midnight oil as they pray and read the scriptures more intently. We pray every night for our pastors who work until they are weary and still proclaim the Good News as a stalwart lighthouse in the fog. Thank you for your faithfulness. . .and humor!


  5. The July 8 Upper Room reminded me of my ‘job’ in prayer. My job of
    ‘not persuading the Lord to see things my way.’

    Praying His Will be done tends to be difficult for me in my humanness…and there are many evidences of God prophets struggling with it, which gives me how.

    So, in quoting The uUper Room… May we
    “bow in reverence, aligning our lives and requests with what God wants.”

    His kingdom and His righteousness…(Matt. 6:33)… to answer ALL…alleluia!


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