I’ve frequently crossed paths with a 70-something year hiker named Rosy Eagle who was an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) pastor in his second career. He has section-hiked most of the trail in the past (which explains his ability to make so many miles) and is now thru-hiking. His wife, who has hiked with him in the past, says he gives too Rosy of a picture of the trail ahead and has an Eagle eye for detail.
Yesterday I met a hiker named Preacher who is a nearly-retired pastor in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
The topic of conservation often comes up “what are you doing after the trail” to which I am glad to explain why I’m going into ministry. This has opened up opportunities to speak of the Gospel. Particularly interesting is the reaction people have when they hear that my previous career was in engineering. In this world that glorifies the sciences, Christianity is seen as a mental disorder at best. In Gatlinburg TN I had a long conversation with a pizza-store owner about Christianity. He was a secular person originally from California and mostly knows of Christianity through the fundamentalist legalistic brand in the local area to which he was made an outsider in his community. Listening to him, and answering his questions without appeals to emotion, I hope to have showed him another side of Christianity.
The question of why I am going into ministry comes up regularly. I don’t know the answer to this question. Others might say they are “called”, but what does that mean?
Why does one like ice cream? One might answer because it is cold, because it is sweet, or because it is fattening. But, is it these constituent factors that make ice cream likable; the coldness, the sweetness, and the fat? Or is it the combination of these which produce a new substance? Any of these 3 factors certainly begs the questions: why do you like that which is sweet, or why do you like that which is cold, or that which has fat? How can one answer these questions? Does not one have a natural impulse to like these things? Is not Ice Cream the basic “like” and not the constituent factors the basic “likes”? Am I not also likewise entitled to say I like to go into ministry as a basic item to like, rather than because of it’s constituent factors? Perhaps I like preaching, teaching, reading the bible, etc., but is is necessarily for any of these reasons that I would want to pursue ministry? Perhaps the word “call” is appropriate. Just as one naturally likes ice cream in it’s own right, I have a desire for church minister as a natural basic desire as I am called by the Holy Spirit to do so.
The Gospel is that, despite the complete corruption of all mankind, God has decided to redeem his chosen people through the death of Jesus on the cross. It is the gospel which frees us from the penalty of the law of God and gives us freedom to live our lives to His glory.
This message is nonsense to those who do not know the Biblical worldview. Thus, I believe an important approach is in first seeking the truth itself; the truth of which the Gospel arises. It is the search for truth that has brought me to Christianity. And it is in finding truth in Jesus Christ (who says “I am the Truth”) in that I am satisfied. The philosophers search in vain for truth. Christians are blessed with knowledge of the truth as it is revealed in the Bible for their sake. I am blessed to know this truth and desire as a basic desire to bring that knowledge to others on the trail and off.