This coming Sunday, November 22nd, I’ll be giving my last sermon as pastor of the North Brooklyn Vineyard (soon to be Vineyard One NYC). I’ve been in the ministry for forty-four years now, thirty-eight pastoring here in New York City. Truth be told, the last thing I ever imagined becoming was a pastor when I started out in the ministry as a go-fer doing errands for room and board at a Teen Challenge center, a Christian drug program in New Jersey. But in 1978, fresh out of college with a bachelor degree in psychology, I was back working for Teen Challenge, this time in Brooklyn as Outreach Coordinator. Now at the time it was decided we’d start a church to provide better aftercare for our graduates. But we really didn’t know what we were doing. We were in the rehab business not the church planting business. But our cluelessness oddly enough led to my “call” to be a pastor.
During one of our planning meetings I inadvertently got myself volunteered. It was like the old comedy routine where the soldiers are all lined up and the commander asks for volunteers to step forward — and promptly everyone except the central character steps backwards, making it look like he stepped forward. Something like that happened to me. I innocently asked, “So who’s the pastor gonna be?” Suddenly there was this awkward silence in the room. It was like everyone stepped backwards leaving me standing out front alone. To which our director responded, “You are!”
Bam! That was it. Done! I was smart enough to ask the question so I was “called”! And whether it was an attack of naïveté or just shock, I accepted, launching a most unlikely pastoral career. I guess it’s just like the lyrics of the old hymn says, “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform”. I suppose when you’re called you’re called. And despite all the growing pains, blunders and set backs I’d have to undergo in order to grow into my weird and wonderful call, I haven’t regretted a single moment. Now it’s on to my next assignment.