A big part of my switch from pastoral ministry into joining SIM came from learning to count while standing on a globe.
After finishing Bible School in 2003, I moved directly to Burtts Corner. I began as the Assistant Pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church in the fall. Cornerstone is a wonderful church and it is one of three evangelical churches in Burtts Corner. At one point, each of our three churches had two pastors. I realized that this made me pastor number six, in church number three, in our town.
There are not a lot of people outside this area who know Burtts Corner. It is a great little community that is probably a lot like what you would expect a place called Burtts Corner in rural New Brunswick to be. It is the kind of place that has more ATV than auto traffic on the weekends. Where you can tell that the first day of hunting season has come by listening out your window. We have a dedicated Volunteer Fire Department, a community parade in early summer, and a rink that runs like a Deere all winter.
All this is to say that Burtts Corner is not a large urban area bursting at the seams with a growing population. Yet we still have three evangelical churches. Each of these churches has its own unique character and history but all three share a very similar quality of gospel life and gospel witness. Does Burtts Corner need three churches and six pastors? Although it is small it is also a needy place. My idyllic image of rural communities broke down soon after landing here. Our community has a lot of the issues that are found in lower income areas in cities. We are encountering a generation who have been growing up without any formative influence from the Bible.
Where Do I Live?
If my field of vision is limited to this area then it is easy to stay here. There are all kinds of things that can and even ought to be done in this community and in the church where I was a pastor. The question is not whether there should be churches and pastors here but whether we should all be here. If I am standing in the Keswick Valley area of New Brunswick in isolation, it makes all the sense in the world to dig in. But the more I realized that my feet are planted on a planet, the less comfortable I became staying put.
I do not just live in Burtts Corner or in the province of New Brunswick. I cannot even say that I just live in Canada or even in North America. I live on a globe populated by around seven and a half billion people. And I am part of a church that spreads across the face of this globe like spring dandelions in an un-mowed field. While there is plenty of need here in Burtts Corner, in Christ I have family all over the world. So many of them are longing to hear the voice of God in His Word but lack the access and advantages that we have here.
Where is my Church?
While the majority of the church now lives outside the West, the majority of our resources are still clustered here. It is a poor way to build a house to have us all huddle in one corner and start swinging hammers. Of course, there is need in Canada for churches and for clergy who will serve them well. There are places in Canada that need more churches (Quebec and Newfoundland come immediately to my mind). But we also must not turn our backs on our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and dam our resources amongst ourselves. This is especially significant when we realize that the places where the church sits right on the edge of peoples who will die without opportunity to even respond to the good news of Jesus unless something changes in their lifetime, is also often where the church is least equipped to have the word of Christ dwell richly among them.
The truth is, I have experienced nothing like a direct and clear call to be a “missionary.” It is, in fact, my sense of calling to serve the church that has drawn me to step away from direct ministry to a church as a pastor. There is great need in Canada that we must not ignore. But we must also reckon with the fact that we as Canadian Christians are part of a bigger family.
The mission of God belongs to the entire family of God. The Great Commission is not the special property of the North American Church. We need to some of us to spread out so that the word of Christ can dwell richly among all of us. Only then will the good news of Jesus go freely beyond us, where Christ is least known.
Not a Pastor…So Others Can Be
Joining SIM has involved more grief for me than I expected. All I ever wanted to be or saw myself being was a pastor. This past weekend I was reminded of a church I know of in the Maritimes that has had a rough time over the past few years and is in need of a pastor. My heart aches knowing that I will not try to go to them. I so miss the joyful discipline of regular preaching. But knowing that I live not only in the Maritimes but also on a globe is the reason why I am not currently a pastor.
I have stepped back from pastoring so we can move towards seeing that the word of Christ will abound more richly in the places with the narrowest channels for it to flow through. The reason I am not a pastor right now, is because I care so much about pastoring itself. My decision not to be a pastor is undertaken in the hope that God will use us to ensure that others can pastor the flocks of which they are a part. I chose not to be a pastor with the aim that as the word of Christ dwells richly among all of us, His good news will go beyond us, where Christ is least known.
If these things move you, then let’s do this together: