Promotion in the Church
By Rev. Albert D. Tyson, III, Senior Columnist
One of my favorite poems was written by Stephen Crane in 1899. The poem says,
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
This poem leads me to the topic for this article, “Promotion in the Church.” Now, please understand, I am not now—nor have I ever been—a bishop in the Church. I do, however, believe in godly judgment and the prayerful application of the same.
I remember when “production” was an important factor in promotion and advancement in pastoral ministry. A pastor was assigned to a pastorate by the bishop based on information the bishop possessed about the charge, the appointee, and the message from the Lord. The appointee assumed the appointment with a glad heart and mind, not knowing exactly what to find but believing that God would meet the pastor at the charge and direct the path of ministry for growth and development in that portion of the Vineyard. The prayers of the bishop, presiding elder, pastor, and parishioners were that this union would become a perfect marriage and produce good fruit.
It seems of late that a few of our appointees are more concerned about being recognized and acknowledged for their meager talents than they are concerned about giving the Lord a good day’s work at the place of appointment. Some look more to self-interest than to the interests of others and then fail to feel any sense of fulfillment in the ministry to which they say they have been called. They are concerned about package without production; emolument without effort; looking ahead to the next assignment without properly handling the current assignment, and cultivating bad habits instead of growing in ministerial graces.
The fellow in Stephen Crane’s poem wanted to be recognized, not for what he had accomplished but merely because he existed. I certainly don’t seek to diminish his presence or his life; but without accomplishment, why would the universe be excited about his existence? There are some folks who have made little or no contribution where they are but they want others to be excited about their possibilities and futures when they have neglected to bloom where they have been planted.
I know that any promotion system is inherently flawed if for no other reason than that it is implemented by human beings. One of the great things about being an African Methodist is I recognize that I am striving for perfection whether I attain it or not; however, my imperfection does not guarantee me an appointment equal to the gifts and graces I believe I possess because God and godly judgment may see otherwise.
Anyway, just because we exist is no reason for us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought and we must trust that the God in Christ Jesus who called us will supply us with all our needs and capacitate us to serve Him to the best of our abilities. God bless you all.
The Rev. Albert D. Tyson, III is the presiding elder of the North District of the Chicago Annual Conference in the 4th Episcopal District. He is active in a variety of civic organizations in the Greater Chicago area and is currently serving as a member of the Public Building Commission of Chicago.