By the time you read this editorial, I will have, a month or more ago, left the editorship of Ministry, having returned to pastoral work and my new assignment as associate pastor of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland, U.S.A. I'm enthusiastically looking forward to working with Senior Pastor Jerry Lutz, the pastoral staff, and of course the wonderful people who make up such a dynamic congregation.
It is coincidental that ending my time at Ministry with this September issue marks a tenure of exactly 10 years with the magazine.
I am particularly thankful for the opportunity I have had to work with those around me, and very especially for the two indomitable others in our editorial office, Julia Norcott and Sheila Draper. They have been invaluable under the sometimes daunting circumstances that have naturally come to our editorial staff of three. I also thank each of our reader family for your friendship and loyalty during my editorship. Also, the colleagueship I've had in working with Pacific Press and everyone there has been nothing but a pleasure.
Since the news of my resignation has spread, people have been asking why I would choose to leave the magazine to go back to pastoral work. They are, I think, especially mystified by the fact that I am voluntarily leaving a relatively "prestigious" position with "such a wide sphere of influence," to return to the work of an associate minister on the congregational level. In answering this "why" question and in writing this final editorial, I hope I'll be forgiven for making my remarks quite honest and a little more personal than usual.
When comparing all of the more "formal" arenas of ministry that flourish in the Church these days, I believe that pastoral-evangelistic ministry is more reflective than many others tend to be of the prototype lived out so compellingly by Jesus and emulated in the life of the New Testament community. Bit by bit I've come to the now defining conviction that for me at least, the further I move away from local pastoral ministry and its essential spirit, and the longer I remain removed from it, the more likely I am to experience a fading of my original, primal call to the kind of overall servant-leadership that is fundamental to what I see to be genuinely effective Christian ministry.
To say it more frontally, when practicing other forms of more "corporate" ministry, I find myself all too susceptible to the siren calls that come from my own desires for prestigious position and the sense of power—much of it a mirage—that is natural to our human hearts. I am certainly not saying that being in pastoral ministry makes one immune to the "position virus" which brings in its train so much that is fraudulent in Christian ministry these days. It seems to me that I am simply more likely to pick up the bug when I do ministry in a "corporate" environment.
For me, being in this milieu (and I must again emphasize that I speak only for myself) has not been helpful to my personal spirituality, and alarmingly, I have found that I have even tended to lose touch with the deep-down fundamentals of my faith and even my humanity.
When this virus strikes, we are initially quite blase about the reason for the spiritual headaches we suffer, or why our missiological joints have begun to stiffen. Typically speaking, we therefore tend not to take any particular action. But our very inaction is one of the primary symptoms of the presence of the viral infection as it finds a place in our spiritual bloodstream. Our false sense of immunity to such maladies is another.
It is with these kinds of things in mind, and others, that I have chosen, I think under the leading of God, to take the direction I have.
I have to say that my degree of personal and corporate concern escalates further when I observe that things merely strategic and administrative seem to be incrementally eclipsing things prophetic and visionary, and the prophetic voice, so crucial to the life of a spiritual organism, no longer seems able or allowed to meaningfully address our administrative initiatives in the way it was actually designed to.
In other words, even the sensibly restrained prophetic voice among us has, it seems to me, been neglected and devalued as other more shrewd voices are given the floor. In some quarters, perhaps where it's most needed,the prophetic has come to be perceived as out of place. In such settings, prophetic words tend to be pictured as inappropriate, unwise, irritating, and productive of a group discomfort that no one should have to put up with in an organization as respectable and able-bodied as our own.
So yes, by moving I am seeking to make a statement which I believe is highly important to our here and now: that pastoral ministry, with all its ups and downs, with all its immense challenges and visceral struggles, and especially as it faces an implied devaluation among us, is nevertheless by all means where it's at! It is in pastoral ministry, more than in any other, that the prophetic voice is more likely to be heard, even though we would all con fess our great need for a more potent expression of it among us as pastors and evangelists.
And yes, I am blatantly seeking to encourage those pastors who might be wondering about themselves and their calling and whose hearts and sense of pastoral call may be a bit unsteadied by some of the prevailing winds that blow through the Church.
While all this may sound noble, I have to be honest and confess that there are also practical, negative dynamics that have prompted my resignation. But I believe deeply that God has used these dynamics to guide me out of where I was providentially led ten years ago and into what I'll so gladly be doing among the outstanding people of the Spencerville congregation and its surrounding community.
At the recent General Conference Session in St. Louis, my colleague, Nikolaus Satelmajer was re-elected as an Associate in the Ministerial Association and has been appointed editor of Ministry. James A. Cress, Ministerial Association Secretary of the General Conference, will serve as executive editor.
Further, 1 have to say publicly that it is of great importance to the future of the magazine that an additional editor be added to the magazine's staff. This is something I've shamelessly asked for in the last few years! I sincerely hope that this will have been done by the time you read this. Such an appointment would make the whole editorial enterprise much more viable, especially when it comes to the crucial matter of further internationalizing the magazine.
As I say goodbye, I pray with a full heart that God will be with Jim and Nik and any others who might come to the magazine. I pray that the continuing influence of Ministry will reach more helpfully and inspirationally into the lives and souls of all of us who make up the Magazine family.