If you are a pastor, you may know what potentially comes after that question. The inner struggle. The asker often assumes that every pastor must have had some deep, perhaps melancholiac experience whereby he has been assured that his sole purpose in life is to carry the Gospel to the ends of the world. And so the questioner waits with baited breath, ready to be astonished with a story involving lightning bolts from heaven, the audible and direct voice of God, or some long and involved string of connected events, the likes of which could not possibly have been coincidences, but "could only have been the hand of God". And if you are a pastor who has been asked this question, but whose pastoral plot line is anything but exciting (like mine), then you know that deflated and disappointed look on the questioner's face when such a story does not eloquently pour forth from your lips. "Oh. How nice." or "Good for you." is often the kind reply.
Even as a young pastor, I have been asked this question often. And I would be lying if I said that there isn't a little part of me that wants to try and make my answer a bit more interesting. Because I don't have a grand and exciting story. I grew up in a parsonage fifty yards from the church, my parents taught me the faith from the day I was born, I thought I would sort of like being a pastor, I took Greek in college, ended up in seminary, enjoyed it, graduated, and now—voila! Here I am, send me. Sure, there are more details I could include, but nothing supernatural or hyper spiritual. In short, when this question was posed to me, I was afraid of being boring.
I don't think this is unique to pastors. All of us fallen human beings are constantly searching for importance. We want to have a unique story, different from all others, that our friends and neighbors will look at with fondness, admiration, and maybe even some envy. But the beauty of God's story is its brilliantly consistent mundanity. Ever since the beginning of time, God has used simple words to accomplish his incredible work; words to call creation into existence; words to speak promises into sinners' ears; words to enlist those sinners into his service; words given to his messengers to declare to the world. And then God does the most miraculously mundane thing of all: he sends a word—the Word. The heavens break open with angel song, and for what? A tiny baby in an unknown manger. The King of the Jews takes his place on the throne, not in regal splendor, but naked, beaten, and bloody. His crown is not encrusted with jewels, but with the rubies of blood drops made by the thorns. And in his great mercy, God uses that work of Christ—which looks anything but special and unique—to remove your sin from you as far as the East is from the West.
And here's the beauty: that's the same story for everybody. The cross, proclaimed by means of mundane words, is the only thing that delivers the miracle of saving faith.
So, upon further repentant reflection, I realized that my fear of being boring was really just my sinful pride looking for a way to blossom; to give my ego the wonderfully exhilarating esteem-boosting that it likes; to feed my self-image with the delicious fare of narcissism. Because let's be honest: the pastoral ministry is not all about me or any other pastor. The Christian faith is not about me or any other Christian.
It's all about Jesus.
"So, Pastor, when did you receive your calling into the ministry?"
"The day the bride of Christ handed me a manilla envelope with documents enclosed asking me to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to them in the name of Jesus."
No lightning bolts. No grand, mystical, meditative, introspective spiritual insights or revelations. No audible voice from heaven or grand visions in the sky. Rather, just some words printed on paper bought on clearance at Staples, stuck in an envelope, and sealed with a secretary's saliva. Almost the epitome of mundane. And yet, therein lies the beauty: that God would use such ordinary means, and that through those means he would enlist sinful men and place upon their lips his incredible, saving, and eternal Gospel.
There is no need to fear the mundane. In fact, it's rather comforting. Because it's not about us anyway.
It's about Jesus.