by Gary Alloway
Growing up, I was a kid who was a good at everything but never excelled at any one thing. I was a committed athlete, but never a star. I was a good student, but there were always a few students above me. I had friends, but others were more charismatic. Since I never had my own “thing,” I always saw this as a weakness in myself.
When I was 16, God got a hold of my life, and I chose to follow Jesus. At age 18, in a moment of doubt and desperation, I heard God speak the words, “Serve me.” I consider those two moments to be my points of calling. I gave my life to serving God and helping broken people find Jesus.
And yet, for much of my young adulthood, I wandered. I wandered intellectually, trying to find how my beliefs held together. I wandered theologically, exploring everything from evangelicalism to Orthodoxy. I wandered between non-profit ministry and pursuing an academic career, and somewhere in the midst of this, I got a business degree.
At age 24, I was in seminary and not sure what I was doing with my life. I still felt like I was good at a little bit of everything but was not excelling at any one thing.
One day, God turned this narrative on its head. I was talking with an old friend, and a light came on. Jesus took the narrative of inadequacy and said to me, “You are exactly who I need you to be.”
Suddenly, I looked again at pastoral ministry and realized that this is a job that requires being good at a little bit of everything rather than being good at one particular thing, especially in the local church. What other job requires public speaking, counseling, budgeting, and knowing the basics of building repair? What other job changes so drastically from day to day … I may be planning a liturgy at one moment and planning a community meal in the next. What other job provides new challenges in every season, often ones that I could never foresee?
I attended an academic seminary. I remember a professor, who had served the church for many years, say, “If you really want to use your brain, go into pastoral ministry, not academics.” He was right. For someone whose brain likes to wander in a million directions, pastoral ministry never runs out of things to think about. For someone who gets bored easily, pastoral ministry provides something new in every season. For someone who is good at a little bit of everything, but fails to have a specialty, pastoral ministry is a perfect fit.
I often get exhausted by the ever-changing, never-settled state of the local church. But if church work ever gets boring, then I will probably be ready to move on. So, today I celebrate the local church, with all its chaos and challenges, and am thankful God made me just as I am.
Gary Alloway is a pastor and church planter of Redemption Church of Bristol (PA), which is a Mosaic Partner in Ministry and was founded in 2009. Gary serves with his wife, Susan, and his children, Augie (9) and Rosey (7), who deeply love pretzel dogs from the Bristol Amish Market. Gary has a passion for Philadelphia sports, crossword puzzles, and for seeing broken people connect to the amazing love of God.