Around the time I got to high school, I decided I wanted to be a pastor. Having found little of worth in this world, I became very religious; I sought out answers in worlds that lay beyond the limits of human experience. And I wanted to help other people seek out those answers, too, others who had felt lost and alone.
But if I was going to do this minister thing, I figured it was time I start getting involved in my church. There wasn’t much on offer for a fourteen year old, though. After all, I was the only one in the church under retirement age. There was no youth group, no mission trips, nothing like that. So I joined the Board of Deacons, which as far as I can tell was some kind of finance committee. Twice a month, my mother dropped me off at the church. While the other kids in my school were playing sports or out doing something fun, I sat around a table of my elders. They talked about a lot of things, like the interest we earned on the church’s endowment, or whether we ought to renew our line of credit with the bank. At fourteen years old, I couldn’t understand a word of it. They also talked a lot about how wonderful it was to have some “young blood” on the committee; they said that a lot, actually, using those exact words. It was really starting to creep me out; it sounded like bad dialogue from a low budget vampire movie, like I’d wandered into some secret cabal of immortal church deacons who perpetuated their existence by feeding on the young.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. No, the worst part was being asked to sell tickets at my school for the church’s annual ham and bean supper. “What a great way to make some new
friends,” my mother told me, still desperate to help me climb the social ladder.
It was about that time that I left the church. And if God wasn’t so insistent, it might have been for good.
I really do believe that God was pushing me to get involved in the church; that God called me to be a pastor. But let’s be honest, I was barking up the wrong tree back there, joining that Board of Deacons. It was a bad fit; instead of trying to find that intersection of my greatest passion and the world’s greatest need, I just signed up for the first thing that came my way.
It’s not always easy, getting involved with a new group of people. Sometimes, there are growing pains; that was certainly true for Paul, who had to overcome the horrible reputation that he’d earned. But he heeded God’s call, and now history remembers him as the 13th Apostle—the true founder of the Christian Church. Without his ministry, we probably wouldn’t be here today.
But I think God had more in mind for Paul than just using his talents for good. On the road to Damascus, he was blinded by the light of God. But maybe that light came from deep within himself. And God was calling him to a place where he could let it shine. I think God wanted Paul to lead a more meaningful life, to help him experience real community. And maybe God does the same thing for us all.
Consider this my testimony; because that’s exactly what God’s done for me.
Rev. Seth Ethan Carey
(Excerpt from The 13th Apostle, August 2017)