I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him…Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. – 1 Timothy 1:12, 14-15
The 40th anniversary of my ordination into the Holy Ministry in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod was June 10, 2019. Yesterday the people of God at St. John celebrated that in our behalf. I say “our” because Diane has been at my side every step of the way, a true partner in mission and ministry. The event was held during the Sunday School hour at St. John. We were touched and blessed by the outpouring of love toward us.
As I reflect on these past forty years, I have identified four truths which I have learned and which continue to guide me in my service to Christ and his people.
Identity in Jesus is most important of all. “Pastor, Pastor Bahn, Pastor David, David, Dave, Dad, Honey, liberal, conservative, confessional, or missional:” How do I identify myself? My identity is in Jesus Christ is most important of all. Although I do wear several different hats, and am known by these various names in various circumstances, I want to keep my eyes firmly on my identity in Christ. It’s not about title, privilege, responsibility, or accessibility. I am a husband to Diane, father to four wonderful sons and their wives, and Granddad to 9 grandchildren. Take all that away and I am still a servant of Jesus. I want to hold most closely to that truth.
Ministry isn’t always easy, but those times make the goodness of God even more precious. Some years in ministry have been more difficult than others. Some church’s personalities are more easily embraced than others. Some cultural contexts are more difficult to navigate than others. Some seasons of mission and ministry are more challenging than others. But God is always good. That truth is precious.
The consolation and conversation of brothers and sisters in Christ is a refreshing gift. I recall the Sunday that the pointer flew out of the hand of a character in a dramatic sketch that was setting up a message. It landed in my lap! The actor broke character and with eyes wide open covered his gaping mouth. The people of the church roared in laughter. I felt connected deeply and so thankful for each and every one there. Those sweet moments are but a dim reflection of the joy that will be ours on the Great Last Day. What a refreshing gift and a foretaste of the joy to come!
I can’t do everything, or please everyone, or even perform up to my own standards. One person said, “You can please all the people,” speaking of serving as a pastor. “You please some people when you come. You please others while you’re there. And you please still others when you leave!” I wish that were not true, but I do believe I do well not to try to prove that I can do it all. I really can’t. I love Martin Luther’s sacristy prayer, which says in part, “If it was up to me, I would have ruined it long ago.” Jesus’ mercy is essential in all of ministry, and precious to me in all of life.
Plus One: I thank God for Diane, my wife! She is more than a partner in ministry and mission. She is a joy and a blessing to me, our family, and to many. I thank God, also, for my family who has supported me in ways I will never know. When I tried to say this publicly today, I choked up. There is a deep thankfulness for Diane’s partnership in life and in ministry. I thank God for her!