I like being a pastor. I like visiting people, giving communion, leading worship, singing. I like praying in a hospital room, celebrating new babies and new members, being able to be with people of all ages, from birth to death. I love that tonight I was able to get together with two of my former confirmation students for dinner, and learn a little about the directions their lives have gone And I get to read, and study, and think for a living.
But sometimes, I think about before I was a pastor. I really didn't like my job. I worked in an insurance office. I was okay at it, but I suspected that I wasn't using some of my gifts.
But, here's the thing: back then, I had a lot of friends who didn't go to church. I also had my friends from church (I spent a fair amount of time at church). I had some friends who never went to church, some friends who used to go to church, but stopped, for one reason or another. I used to have these theological conversations with one of the women where I worked. She called me her "Lutheran friend."
I remember going out after work with another one of my non-church-going friends. Sometimes she would confide in me things that had happened to her when she was a child. Sometimes we would talk about God and life and forgiveness and things like that.
Then there was the Buddhist guy I dated a couple of times. He used to be Catholic, and he thought it was sort of cute that I was still a Christian. Still, we had some good conversations.
I miss that.
I don't know if I ever invited my non-church-going friends to church with me. When I think about it now, I am a little scandalized. But I wasn't thinking about trying to get non-church-goers to be church-goers. I was just sharing faith with people whose faith was different from my own. And then I knew things I have almost forgotten now. Then I knew that a lot of my non-church-going friends weren't dying to go to church, but they were dying for someone to care about them, listen to them, tell them that they mattered in the world.
I miss those conversations.
It's good to invite your friends to church with you. I want the people in my church to do that. But what I would really like to do is help them have the kind of conversations that I had before I became a pastor.