Kendall Ratliffe was rightly plucked from the crop of graduates from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond to become the ambassador for Averett University. After two successful years with Averett she is processing the post-graduate experience. And she is finding paradoxes in the transition from academia and ideas to the politics and practice of paid ministries. Kendall is not the first seminary graduate I’ve interviewed who has felt called to ministry within the church until after graduation. Their stories remain cliffhangers, to some degree, of whether they will return to serve professionally in churches. In each case, in my clear opinion, it is the church’s loss if these leaders take their gifts elsewhere.
It is also my clear opinion that Kendall Ratliffe and other similar seminary graduates will use their gifts, talents, and seminary preparation to lead and serve wherever they live. These are graduates with good and genuine hearts for a better world. They want healing, goodness, and joyful, abundant lives for everyone. Even if God’s individual churches do not support and employ such gifted servants I have certain faith that God’s Church, with a capital ‘C,’ will be served by them. Their service may not be overt or recognized by anyone, sometimes even themselves, but they will be missionaries wherever they live and work.
I am struck by how clearly the Church is changing. I am far from the first to say “there is a shift taking place,” or even “a shift has taken place.” Kendall Ratliffe, Stephanie Rice, Scott Larson-McGuire, Ben Brown, Taylor Poindexter, Ashley Mejias, Ashlee Murphy, Lana Heath de Martínez, Jennifer Bailey, Lindsay Andreolli-Comstock and Jason Callahan all come quickly to mind as compassionate young leaders with theologies that serve God and the world beautifully. The world is coming into a place where these thoughtful faith leaders may no longer be crucified for telling the truth about God and the Bible. When the ministers are saying they feel “more useful inside the church than out” then the Church may be being more successful than its ministers feel. We are called to support the sacred in the world … whether or not the world provides a structure to pay its faith leaders or not.
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Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett