As I sit and reflect on my own call to pastoring, I am confronted not only by the immense privilege it has been to serve the Church of Jesus Christ in ministry, but also how difficult it has been in many ways. For the past five years, God has taken me on a confronting journey that continues to require my full surrender to Him. This is a journey into the dawning realization that, in an age where the promotion of self appears paramount and essential, Jesus actually asks the opposite of us – a denial of self, a cross-shaped lifestyle, a laying down of things held dear, surrender to Him and submission to each other.
As I reflect on the mutuality and confluence of men and women serving together in leadership I am increasingly mindful of the fact that all are called to surrender to Jesus, all are called to mutual submission, all are called to a laying down of personal rights, agendas, and opinions. The way of the cross is one of simplicity and love. This requires a letting go of pride, and power, and control. What does it mean to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)? To consider others better than yourself? In finding the answers to these questions we can be set free to promote others, to create unity, and to work for a release of all into their giftings for the benefit of the Body of Christ. I love the Passion translation of Romans 12:10 – “Be devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family. Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.”
This challenge resounds to male and female alike….
My call to pastoring was not a call to a position or a career, but a call to service. This was a call that came out of love for others and a belief that the people of God have an answer for the world’s pain. I was working as a paramedic with St John Ambulance WA in 2009 when my partner and I received a call to attend to the hanging suicide of a young woman. I wrote in my journal:
“I am walking away from the woman’s lifeless body lying on the ground. There is nothing that can be done. I have been a paramedic with St John Ambulance WA for seven years, and these jobs, (callouts to suicides), never get easier. This young woman committed suicide because she couldn’t cope with the pain after her mentally ill ex-partner murdered their three-year-old son. Oh, Jesus, I want to work with people before they get to this point of no return.”
I could have gone into counseling or social work; perhaps another profession in the health area. However, I wanted to be free to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ in my job… I knew I was being called to be a pastor. I went on to study for a Graduate Diploma of Divinity at Vose Seminary, and have now been working at Riverview Church for 6 years.
I believe that we are entering into a season where Jesus is waking up His church, resounding a new call for her to be the light and salt that she needs to be in order to stand effectively against the darkness overshadowing our world. This will require a new unity within the Church of Perth, with all people who call themselves disciples of Jesus joining together to embody the Body of Christ in all her beauty, complexity, strength, and diversity.
“You are the body of the Anointed One, and each of you is a unique and vital part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 (TPT)
Nicki Bowles is a Care Pastor at Riverview Church, a large, contemporary community of Jesus-followers in Perth Western Australia. In this role Nicki is responsible for the pastoral care and spiritual direction of Riverview people, as well as the facilitation of the weekly Prayer Gathering. She holds a Graduate Diploma of Divinity from Vose Seminary, and has been pastoring for six years after a seven year stint as a paramedic with St John Ambulance WA. She is passionate about Jesus and his Church, her family, and fashion, and also loves to dance to Abba music when things get too serious. She appreciates her husband Tim, who works as a drama teacher, and always supports her in her ministry call.
If you or someone you know are experiencing a personal crisis, call 13 11 14 for 24/7 confidential support from a trained Lifeline crisis supporter.