Please Don’t Ask

November 3, 2021 by Rev. Lorenzo Small

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 3:14-16

I love to Uber. It not only provides me a good source of supplemental income, but it is also relaxing, and in many ways therapeutic for me. In the age of this pandemic where we, as pastors, have had to exert ourselves mentally in ways that we never imagined we would, being a rideshare driver provides me a welcomed outlet. No significant thought needed, creative prowess not necessary and mental laziness acceptable. Not only that, but driving is also something I have years of experience doing and, thus, am thoroughly prepared for. When I drive it is like a giant exhale from all the stress of ministry in a very unexpected and complicated context. Can I get an Amen?

However, I have found that my call is uncovered every now and then, even when I am behind the wheel. I must admit, I avoid telling riders what I do professionally like the plague. When I pick up a talkative and friendly rider, I am like that young lady in the horror movie hiding in the shed who can see my pursuer hoping he/she does not find me out. But, almost like clockwork the question comes. “Do you do this full-time?” My quick and short response, “No”. Immediately I start reciting to myself silently, “please don’t ask”. They always ask. I guess the pain of having to hear the varied responses that are more than often negative towards God, religion and/or the church has waned on me and the mental capacity it requires to engage the riders on this subject in a faithful and joyful way; I just don’t want to do it. I really want to save that for Sunday morning, “Game Day”, where I have thoroughly prepared myself to engage in spiritual warfare. And when I drive, I simply want to drive and separate myself from that aspect, that primary aspect, of my identity.

Recently, I had an encounter with a gentleman who uncovered my calling. He stated to me, “I have never had a problem with God, just religion”, among many other things he shared, which were the typical things I hear from riders. “I was raised in the church. Some of the meanest people and some of the nicest people I know are part of the church.” The conversation seemed to go on and on and I did everything in my power to limit the number of words in my responses. After dropping him off with much relief, the words of Peter hit me. “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. This rider’s line of questioning did not go exactly like that, but his questions certainly created the opportunity for me to do what Peter instructs. I wonder how often we, as pastors, attempt to compartmentalize our lives and in doing so close ourselves off from clear opportunities we so often preach and teach our parishioners to be on guard for. Like many of you, I certainly have times where I need a reprieve from the toil of ministry, but never from my identity as a disciple of Jesus Christ called to proclaim his goodness to everyone who asks in every facet of my life. So, the next time I am behind the wheel, and I am found out, I will do what Peter instructs.

Rev. Lorenzo R. Small, Sr. serves as pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C. He attended North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., where he studied finance, and he pursued a career in healthcare following college. He later answered the call to ministry, graduating from Union Presbyterian Seminary in April 2013 with a Master of Divinity degree. Rev. Small was ordained as a PC(USA) Teaching Elder and installed as the pastor of Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, S.C., in 2014. He accepted the call as Pastor of First United Presbyterian Church and preached his first sermon there on June 18, 2017. He is married and has three sons and enjoys traveling with his wife.