Do You Have a Dog?
“Do you have a dog?” asked the five-year-old, red-headed boy. I never expected such a simple question from such an innocent source to have such a profound answer; an answer that, ultimately, was about much more than dogs!
I had been the pastor of a small LCMS congregation in the mountains of western North Carolina for twelve years. It would have been easy to stay another twelve. Yet, I had the sense that God was about to make things new. I received a call to a bigger church farther east in the state. This congregation had it all; a solid senior pastor, a great staff, multiple vibrant ministries, an active laity. Who wouldn’t want that position? The question was, did God want ME in that position?
One day, late in the deliberation process, I was touring the school connected with the calling congregation. The principal asked if I would stay with the kindergarten class while the teacher stepped out for a moment; she’d be back in ten minutes. I agreed. As I turned back to that group of young, curious faces, I felt at home. I asked the group if they had any questions. That’s when my new, young, red headed buddy asked his question. Ten minutes seemed like thirty seconds as this inquisitive group of kindergarteners and I engaged in a wonderful, lively discussion of the joys of pet ownership!
Many dynamics brought me to that point. The path leading there had been long. But in this moment the light of clarity shone on my decision process. I knew without a doubt that the change God intended was not simply pastoring this or that congregation; it was a more comprehensive change. Within three days I had returned the call. Within three months I was enrolled in the North Carolina program for lateral entry teachers and the Masters of Arts in Teaching degree program at Western Carolina University. The following fall I would step into the classroom as a middle school math and science teacher, serving seven years in the public schools of Haywood County, NC, followed by seven years at Grace Chapel Lutheran School in Bellefontaine Neighbors, MO.
The move from pulpit to classroom was a leap of faith. It was a move which some did not understand. (We all know teachers who went to seminary; but a pastor who went to the classroom?!!) It was the right move. Even though being a parish pastor was the right place for twelve years, the classroom would now be the right place of service. The fourteen years in education have been challenging yet rewarding. To be part of the academic and spiritual growth of middle school students and to be involved in the lives of their families, has been a blessing beyond description. To think, the central moment of clarity revolved around a simple question about a dog! God, indeed, works in interesting ways as He includes us in His mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a lost world!