The Next-Wave Ezine: Issue #94

current issue index

next-wave |  about |  bookstore |  archived |  advertise |  charlie wear's notes |  links October 2006
I’m 45 years old. I hold a masters degree in theology, and there are some (not many…but some) people who would consider me a success in my chosen career. For over 20 years I’ve been a professional religious person; a vendor of spiritual goods and services if you will. They call me “pastor” and mostly I like the way that sounds. I’ve conducted numerous weddings and funerals, and usually those in attendance love my performance. I’m kind, tender, insightful, sincere and funny; not so funny at the funerals though.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve counseled. Suicidal teenage girls, couples in crisis, terminally ill patients and parents alike have come to me for advice and wisdom. As far as I can tell, I’ve been pretty helpful.

I preach too; lots and lots of messages filled with witty stories and down-to-earth points that can be easily applied to everyday life. Many times I’ve been told (mostly by old women) that I’ve got a real “gift.” Several times I even got to be the “guest speaker” at camps and weekend retreats. These gigs were really cool; I could talk longer, tell more stories and because the people couldn’t go home right after the sermon, but had to stay at the camp, they said even more nice stuff about my preaching. And sometimes they’d ask me for some counseling too.

So basically I feel pretty accomplished in my own mind and its important for me to feel this way because the friends I grew up with are all very successful. Greg is an executive for a car company, Jeff is the CEO of a huge insurance agency, Chris was a professional football player, Jana is a recording artist, Paul has a PhD, so does Ralph and of course my dad’s a doctor so you can see why being successful is such a big deal.

A few years ago I decided to plant a church; it was my second one. The first was a smashing success; in only three years we had over 500 people coming! And to hear people talk, that’s what mattered most; you know...numbers. So, being a “successful” church-planter, I thought I’d try it again. The plan was simple: get a part-time job to supplement my income until people started coming by the 100’s to hear me preach and get some counseling. Then I could go full-time and continue my winning streak. I got a part-time job as a “Transportation Specialist.” That’s code for “school bus driver.” Now I wasn’t a regular driver, but a substitute. I did that mostly because it allowed me the freedom to do the preaching and counseling stuff.

This was way harder than I thought. It took a lot out of me to get up at 4:45 every morning and wait for a call to drive. When it came, I filled the bus with diesel and me with caffeine and headed down the road. Now don’t get me wrong, driving one of these bad boys is no simple feat. This job is a multi-tasker’s dream; reading route directions, managing upwards of 60 kids high on pop tarts and juice boxes while maneuvering a 30,000 pound rig through narrow city streets is way harder than it looks. It’s just that…well… as a trained religious practitioner I felt had so much more to offer than my driving skills!

Driving the bus was supposed to be a temporary gig. But it lasted longer than I expected. Hundreds of people didn’t come to my church. Maybe a couple dozen; and they weren’t really impressed with my teaching or counseling skills. But they liked me so they stayed. So I kept driving, but it got harder and harder. Here I was, a professional with so much success, sitting behind the wheel of a school bus!

Mostly I tried to tune out the noise the kids made. I only had to control them long enough to get them to school. Then they were the teachers’ problem. But I couldn’t tune out the noise completely; sometimes my filter failed and a message would sneak through. Some just made me laugh and helped pass the time. One day a little girl sitting right behind me appointed herself the deputy bus driver and proceeded to report on every rule violation while en route;

“Stephen won’t sit down,”

“Candace called me stupid!”

 “Ashley’s picking her nose and eating it!”

But then there was the day when a kid said something that shook me to the core. I don’t think he meant anything by it, but I can’t be sure. I think he was in first grade; maybe kindergarten and he had a slight speech impediment that made it hard for him to pronounce the letter “s.” And to add insult to injury, the little miscreant couldn’t even see over the back of the seat in front of him, but judging from the impact of his comment on my self-image you would’ve thought he was a full-grown seminary professor! What he said had nothing to do with my professional abilities, but it rattled every ounce of confidence I possessed.

He called me “buttdriver!”

More than once!

“Buttdriver, can I change seats?
Buttdriver, are we almost there?
Buttdriver, I got a SpongeBob lunchbox and my mom gave me HoHo’s today cause she forgot them yesterday, but she says that next week I can’t have them on account of I have to go to the dentist. His name is Dr. Pete. Do you know Dr. Pete?
Buttdriver, you’re not as cool as our REAL driver!
Buttdriver, Samantha puked on Monday and I think there’s still some left on the seat.
Buttdriver, what’s your name?
Buttdriver, have you always been fat?
Buttdriver, can you hear me?”

Now I am a highly skilled and educated religious professional, most certainly NOT a buttdriver! But in that moment, my kindergarten passenger saw me for all that I really was; just a guy driving his school bus. He saw me as someone he hoped he could talk to about normal everyday things. He saw me as someone that might (just might) care about his simple six year-old world.

Once I got over the shock and insult, I started to wonder if the little degenerate was really a little prophet in disguise. Maybe he was sent by God to get my attention…to shake me loose from my addiction to reputation and image. Maybe he was God’s voice telling me to get over myself. Maybe he was some kind of spiritual terrorist letting me know that he had penetrated my carefully crafted world of piety and sophistication; a kind of two-legged dirty bomb with enough explosive power to destroy my arrogance and inflated sense of self-importance.

  Tom Perez--- An "amateur" is a person who does something for love. After more than 20 years as professional religious person, Tom is struggling to become an amateur pastor simply because he loves the church, not because he needs a paycheck. He also have a day job as a business owner. It's easier said than done, but that's a story for another day.



Seems like God is always trying to rework our identities to reflect his image, not just keep us happy. Great article. Thanks for sharing part of your journey with me today. I needed it! BuckNakedFaith guy

Seems like God is always trying to rework our identities to reflect his image, not just keep us happy. Great article. Thanks for sharing part of your journey with me today. I needed it! BuckNakedFaith guy

well written, I enjoyed it very much. I wonder why we are so addicted to "self-importance"? when in christ we own the past the present and the future, why?

Tom, thanks for this. how wonderful it is to get to a place where we can see (and be seen) as someone who "just might care"


love it! stay the course man..

Copyright © 2010 Next-Wave Ezine.
All rights reserved.

Next-Wave Ezine - Issue #94
Issue Credits
Cover Story

Suggestions for Critics of the Emerging Church
Featured Article: At the Top
Oh, Spencer
Featured Article: Spotlight
Brand Name Jesusâ„¢
Church Culture
Are the Popular Methods of Doing Church Working?
What’s a Faithmap?
Imagination and God’s Future
Kingdom Living
Paying to Follow Christ
Real Life
Church Life
Equal Time on Video Venues
Off Broadway
I went fishing the other day and do I have a fishing story...
Eckhart 11
Adventures in Emerging
The question of the hour...