First Third Conversations

The Dissonance of Fear and Hope: Reflections of a First Call Pastor

Lord LightA blog post by Adam Butler

By the time you read this post, I will be a real pastor.

I suppose that’s not completely true. I had my ordination service back in June and received a call as an Associate Pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a month earlier. However, today is my first day on the job.

And I couldn’t be more terrified.

This terror comes in all kinds of ways, varying in intensity. I’m terrified that I’m not prepared for the vocation I’ve entered. I’ll be the first to admit that I have little comprehension of what being a pastor entails in its entirety. I’ve gotten tastes of it working in youth ministry and on my pastoral internship, but I’m not going to pretend I’m not feeling a little ill prepared for what waits on the horizon. “You’ll never be completely prepared,” they say. Yeah, but it’d be nice to feel like less of a schmuck.

I’m terrified to be moving away from my hometown in the Twin Cities. I moved away for a year when I did my internship in Colorado, but I saw the ending before that year even began. There’s no end in sight here, which is great, but it’s still unsettling in a way -- not to mention the challenges of finding housing, a job for my wife, and some friends to hang out with every once in a while.

I’m terrified that this calling I’ve pursued since before the bowl cut went out of style is becoming more and more meaningless to my peers and fellow millennials. In the last week, I have read an article about why millenials are leaving the church and how we might “win them back,” another about how millenials don’t even think about church, and another suggesting atheism as a preferable alternative to faith. I mean, seriously, what the heck am I even doing here?

I believe in God as a saving power and as a freeing presence in my life. I sincerely believe in the Church as a community of relationships in which we commit our lives to serving our brothers and sisters. I believe faith is transformational and life giving. At this moment, though, those beliefs are easier to write than they are to actually believe.

I find some comfort in God’s words to Joshua after Moses died, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) I find comfort as well in the often poignant poetry of the Psalms, “The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

I’m still terrified.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned along the way, though, it’s that living in the dissonance of fear and hope is something we all have to get used to. In fact, that’s usually where I encounter God most deeply.

Within the dissonance of fear and hope might be exactly where I need to be right now. My prayer is that it’s in that place where I learn to love, serve, and give life to the people of God through the person God is calling me to be.

Adam ButlerAuthor Bio:
Adam Butler is a recent graduate of the M.Div. program, with an emphasis in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, at Luther Seminary. Throughout college and prior to beginning seminary, he worked in multiple youth and outdoor ministry settings. He is an avid sports fan, enthusiastic pontooner, a craft beer homebrewer/consumer, and patron of the arts. Currently, Adam serves as an Associate Pastor with emphasis in youth and family ministry at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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