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Vocation, Voice, Identity

February 8, 2008

Rick Mang, another guitar-slinging preacher, wrote in the comments earlier this week:


You are certainly no ordinary UMC preacher!!!

Thank God for that . . . because we don’t need anymore ordinary UMC preachers in the UMC.

We need people like yourself, who are passionate about using the gifts God has given them instead of trying to be something they aren’t in order to please their conference BOM, cabinet or bishop.

I appreciate you!

His comments got me thinking…..

While I was in seminary and serving at my first appointment, Katy would often comment that I should be singing and playing more.  I was intentionally not playing because I was the preacher – “special music” was no longer my role in church.  It took me a while to realize Katy was right (I don’t know why it took so long – Katy is usually right) and that I needed to be playing more.

These days I play all the time.  I play the acoustic and electric guitar during the hymns and for evening services.

I have recently come to the startling realization that God did not call Willie Deuel to play preacher in front of the congregation.  God did not call Willie Deuel to conform to anyone’s stereotype of who a preacher is or what a preacher does.

God called Willie Deuel to be a pastor.

Problem is, I put too much emphasis on the “to be a pastor” part of the sentence and forgot about the God called Willie Deuel part of the sentence.  God called me to be me and to do the work of a pastor.

Playing the guitar and making music is a huge part of who I really am.  I hear music in my head all the time.  I love ukuleles because they are essentially tiny little portable guitars I can take everywhere I go.  I crave the guitar.  I drive my family crazy because I am constantly reaching for the guitar while we watch TV.  (Our older son understands, he does it too).

The epiphany, really, then is that the guitar is no longer an avocational interest for me.  It is part of my vocation (remember, vocation comes from the same root word as voice, and you don’t really get to choose your voice.)  I am a pastor who is a musician.  Not really a “music minister” per se, but a pastoral minister with a musical voice, a musical identity.

God called me to be a pastor, but I pray I never forget that God called me to be a pastor.  Not some artificial me, the real me.  The whole me.  The husband, the father, the academic; the saved, redeemed, Tele-twangin’, uke-plinkin’, singer-songwriter, joke telling, narrative-loving me.

Thanks for giving me food for thought, Rick.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2008 6:41 pm


    I think you are dead on – what the church needs is authentic preachers – not “perfect” preachers or “ideal” preachers.

    Sharing the truth about who you are openly – even if that truth fails to conform to other’s expectations – is a true gift. And you are bold to live faithfully to the fullness of what God created when God created you!

  2. February 9, 2008 8:19 am

    I have recently been reading Max Lucado’s book, The Cure for the Common Life.” This is exactly what he talks about. It sounds like you have discovered your “sweet spot.”

  3. February 9, 2008 9:13 pm

    Amen Willie. Very well said…Jennifer

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