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Utility player

You are not the star player. No one is.

Am I done? I’ll be 66 in June. Is it time to retire? As I review my “career” there is always a sense of mystery. Why did I do this? What might be the road ahead?

My path has taken many turns, primarily within the same course of ministry. I have been a student, a theology professor, a co-pastor, a young adult leader, a church planter, a community organizer, a campus pastor, a communications professor, a coach, a Christian graduate school president, a missionary teacher, a police chaplain, as well as a husband, parent and grandparent. There have been times of wonder and of waiting, times of desert and of dessert.

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps” (Prov. 16:9 NRSV).

The Game

Throughout my life I have been an athlete. I even won a base ball game at the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. I wrote “base ball” as two words because I was playing original rules barehanded base ball at the time. For Detroit Tigers fans, Ernie Harwell mispronounced my name at a Henry Ford Museum game.

This brings a metaphor to mind. Maybe I have been God’s utility player. A utility player is not the star. They are on the team because they can play many different positions, as the need arises. This has been my career. God has called me to many different places, often for short durations, because there was a need in a school, a community or with a church.

Sometimes the change made sense, sometimes it was painful. There were adventures and sacrifices, but I was in the game. The decisions were not all mine. A coach was making the calls.

The Christian Life

I am not unique. This is the Christian life and the professional life for many of us. We do not know all the factors involved in decisions and changes, but we can trust the coach. We are involved. We are in the game and called to be faithful where God puts us, where he and the world need us. We are not the star. We are players in the game, teammates, led by our Lord.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12-13)

Calling

Throughout my ministry, I have taught the Reformed Christian idea of “calling.” One must recognize a caller to have a calling. Key is listening within the noise.

Listen to: God through the Scriptures. Others on the team. The cries of the world. Your heart as it passionately responds to needs. Your head as it reflects on opportunities. The experiences of faith, hope and love as we live.

Frederick Buechner stated, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wonderful.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10-12)

Jesus calls, “Come, follow me,” and concludes, “Go . . . surely, I am with you always.” Go to all nations. I am joining the Chinese Church of Iowa City as their English language pastor, another turn, another position to play, stepping up to the plate and taking another swing. I hope it’s a home run.

Author

  • Dr. Thomas Wolthuis is a CRC pastor serving as the English pastor of the Chinese Church of Iowa City. He has been a campus minister, institute president, professor, pastor, and church planter. His Biblical Studies podcasts are at www.geneva-ui.org.

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