My father was a coal miner in Australia. He worked in that industry for nearly forty years. During that whole time he was also a devout Christian, and for most of that time he was a deacon in our local Baptist church. There is no doubt that he brought to bear upon his life in the mines where he worked the Christian faith that he professed. He did not hesitate to testify to Christ, and in all kinds of ways his commitment to the gospel made him an influence for good in day-by-day situations, in special circumstances (such as his role in the Mines Rescue Brigade), and in the industry itself throughout the district where we lived. But my father always had within him a secret disappointment: He wanted to be a minister. He certainly was a preacher (for at least three different denominations) and a Sunday church school teacher. He was a leader in his local congregation at several important points in time. He helped raise a Christian family (his two sons were ordained and his daughter became a missionary). But as far as he was aware, and as far as his church led him to believe, he was never able to fulfill the one desire that had often been uppermost in his mind. Lacking the education and the opportunity, he had never been able to become a minister … I became a minister; he did not. He found fulfillment by proxy in my vocation, but he remained a coal miner and, as such, just an “ordinary” Christian.
One of the things that my recent journey has done for me has been to make me seriously dissatisfied with this evaluation of who and what my father was. He lived as a Christian where God had placed him. He made a significant impact on his environment as a servant of Christ. On many occasions he took stands and pursued courses of action because he was convinced they were required of him as a Christian. He ministered, if anyone did, to individuals, to the structures of his society, to his community. In places to which I as an ordained person could not have gained access, he was present in Christ’s name, and he bore witness. The neighborhood, the organizations, the mines of our region were better because Ted Peck lived and worked there and was not afraid to minister the gospel.
Yet neither he nor his church ever thought of him as a minister or of his service as ministry. He was not acknowledged in that way; he was not specifically trained for such a task; he was not explicitly supported in what he did; he was not commissioned; he was not held accountable. Those things all happened, by the grace of God, but neither he nor his church ever brought them to consciousness or developed the programs and structures that might have made him feel throughout his life and at its end that he had, indeed, attained the status and fulfilled the function for which he had longed. He ministered without ever being able to say with clarity, “I am a minister of Christ."
Written by George Peck and John S. Hoffman. Excerpted from The Laity in Ministry, published by Jus=dson Press. Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.