The Dreaded Question

conversations among strangersThere are few conversation starters or stoppers like the one question that seems to inevitably come up in first time meetings with people outside of church.  That one question usually goes, “So what do you do for a living?”

I’ve talked before about how I think we can find a false sense of security and identity in the wrong things like materials or occupations.  There are few things that feel as much like the proverbial screeching tires in a conversation like rolling out the, “I’m a pastor” line.

Now, this has nothing to do with any shame that I have in being a pastor.  I have no shame in that or in the Gospel of Jesus Christ because I firmly believe that it is the power of God to salvation, just as Paul says in Romans 1.  It’s more to do with people’s own experience of the church.  When you start talking about religion, there are few people who have moderate opinions, at least in my experience.  Most people have fairly strong opinions and are not afraid to express them.  They also become suspicious very quickly.

It’s not every day that I can engage in conversations with people on the issue of my job and find them intrigued or curious.  So consider my surprise this past weekend when my wife and I attended the rehearsal dinner and wedding of a friend and I found myself engaged in conversation with a New Yorker transplanted from Michigan.

I love getting into conversations with people about faith.  Like I said, it seems that everyone has a strong opinion about it.  The guy that I met this weekend was very curious about what I did and he was asking me tons of questions.

It seems that he had been brought up in Roman Catholic home and educated at a Christian school.  His experience with the school was interesting (my word) as he began to see the hostilities that are present between Protestants and Catholics.

After moving past his experience, he engaged me in why I did what I did and exactly what it entailed.  He kept telling me how much he respected my decision to sacrifice and become a pastor.  I told him that I really didn’t have much of a choice, it was what I felt like God had created me to do.

To be honest, I don’t know that I did a lot of talking at all.  If anything, I mostly listened to this guy talk.  I was so intrigued to hear where he was coming from and what was going on in his life.  I was more intrigued that he was intrigued by me.  I’m really nothing special, and I don’t say that in a self-depracating way as much as in a way that lets you know that I’m pretty much a normal guy.

Over the last few years, I have seen the power of story in people’s lives.  When you engage people in their own experiences and stories, it seems to flip a switch within them that opens the floodgates.  This guy was no exception and it was beautiful.  I was so fascinated to hear his thinking and to wonder exactly what God is doing in his life.

By the end of the time that we spent together in conversation, I genuinely enjoyed being around this guy.  It actually prompted me to challenge myself to try to engage with people like this on a day to day basis.  It’s too easy for pastors to sequester themselves in an office surrounded by academic and biblical books with no human interaction at all.  Starbucks and small coffee shops are the ideal place to meet people on their turf, so to speak, and hear about their stories.

I have no idea when and if I will reconnect with this guy.  I certainly hope that I do.  I have experienced God’s pursuit of me and I long to see that in others as well.  Based on my conversations with him, I would say that there’s something that’s happening underneath the surface with this guy and it’s exciting to see.  God’s placed him in a unique place of influence and I hope that I get the chance to hear some more of his thoughts and ponderings again in the future.

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