While I was in seminary, and for several years afterwards, I figured that I would start my pastoral career as an assistant pastor somewhere. This seemed to make sense because starting as an assistant pastor is like starting in the shallow end of the pool. A logical place to start before you make your way into the deep end. As an assistant you do not have as many big decisions to make. You don't have to preach every week. And when it comes right down to it, the buck just doesn't stop with you.
But instead, I have now started pastoral ministry by jumping into the deep end. Having found a church that is willing to have me fill in for them as a solo pastor, I now do every thing that I had thought would take years to work up to. And the great part about it is that I am really enjoying it. In fact, now that I'm swimming around in the deep end, I think the shallow end doesn't look so appealing anymore. I get the privilege of preaching every week, I get to make the big significant decisions, and people really trust me to lead them. And actually, the buck doesn't really stop with me, it stops with the session.
Today I wandered into the scariest part of the deep end. I was asked to preach a funeral for an unbeliever. And not just any unbeliever, but an outspoken atheist who was quite hostile toward religion, and really not a very nice guy. Thankfully, despite being a solo pastor I'm not at all alone. I called several pastor friends, and seminary profs, and asked profusely for advice. They were very helpful. The funeral was this morning, and it went well. I didn't say a single thing about the deceased, I simply offered the consolation and comfort of the gospel to a grieving family, and they were happy to hear it. And I was happy to be the pastor preaching it.