At my seminary commencement Dr. C. Ellis Nelson, the president of the institution, told us that Jesus doesn’t want “undercover agents.” Try as we might, we cannot hide our call to be ministers of Word and Sacrament. There are few things that I remember from my seminary days, but that truism stayed with me.
In the book Blood Done Sign My Name Timothy Tyson wrote about a member of the small rural Methodist church that his father served in the segregated South. The Rev. Tyson invited a well African-American preacher and president of North Carolina A&T college to preach one Sunday. It wasn’t long before he received death threats
On this particular day, a lay leader in the church stopped by to tell the Rev. Tyson about a business call that he just made. The proprietor asked if the salesman supported the minister. Yes, he did. “Get the hell out of my store and never set foot in here again!” the proprietor angrily replied.
With tears welling up in his eyes but a small pained smile on his face, the lay leader continued, “Preacher, all of my life I heard about witnessing but until now, I didn’t know a damn thing about it.” (p. 354) I think that I kind of know what he was talking about.
There have been times when I considered being Jesus’ “undercover agent”. But, that ruse never lasts longer then a few holes of golf. I enjoy, too much, watching the expression on the faces of at least one member of a foursome–usually the mouthiest one who doesn’t know my calling–as he replays everything he said or did over the previous holes!
Jesus never promised being a disciple would be “easy.” As a matter of fact, He talked about discipleship in terms of picking up the cross–His Cross–and “losing” ourselves for the Gospel’s sake. Many have paid a high price for following Jesus. I hope I’ll never have to, but if I do, then I pray that God will give me the strength to be faithful.