Many of my readers will recall I retired from pastoral ministry in July of 2013. I loved the people. I loved the work and I loved the ministry. There were no issues at the church that led me to leave. The church was going well. However, I felt my time as "pastor" was done. I sensed, in the Spirit, God changing the direction of our ministry. I have certainly learned through the years to move when God leads to me to move. On the flip side of that I have learned to stay put when God leads to stay put. It has always been my desire to be right in the midst of God's perfect will.
Just as I was sure God lead us to this rural church in June of 2008, I knew, without a doubt, he was leading us out. When God spoke to my heart about leaving pastoral ministry, He let me know this was not a resignation from this local assembly, but rather a retirement from pastoral ministry itself. These are two different things.
God also spoke to my heart that this was not a retirement from ministry but rather a shift in ministry focus. Not only would we be singing more, we would be available for pulpit fill, to assist other churches as the opportunity arose and to serve as an interim pastor to a church that is struggling or between pastors. God has gifted us with gifts to be able to assist struggling churches. We were excited about these new avenues of service.
We stayed very busy with our singing ministry, New Jerusalem Singers. God opened doors that have never been opened before. We were happy singing and filling pulpits as the opportunity presented itself. To be honest, preaching in the traditional sense was not one of the things I enjoyed. I always felt we could minister more in music and the message of the songs we sing. I often share between songs and have the opportunity to "preach" several different messages touching a greater variety of people then merely preaching a sermon behind the pulpit. I still feel this way.
In October of 2015 we received a call asking if we were available to fill a pulpit and preach. This call came from the church I had retired from. Since this is one of the things we do - assist a struggling church - we agreed to come and fill in. The church had undergone a church split and there was a lot of hurt to deal with. There was healing that needed to take place. I also offered to help them get the word out about them needing a pastor. Additionally, I gave them names of preachers who offered to fill the pulpit.
I was asked numerous times if I would be submitting a resume for consideration as pastor. My answer, "Oh, no." Being a pastor again is not something I wanted or intended to do. If you have read my blog for any length of time you know I have "outside-the-box" thoughts on what "church" is or should be. For me to "pastor" is like putting a square peg in to a round hole". It just doesn't work that well.
Several of the folks continued to ask if I was going to submit a resume. Finally, my wife created a ministry resume for me. I kept it in my Bible case for several weeks. Truthfully, I didn't intend to turn it in. Then one morning before Sunday School the Holy Spirit strongly led me to submit my resume to a member of the pulpit committee. I did so reluctantly.
We continued to fill in at the church as our schedule permitted. One Sunday in January of this year, the pulpit committee asked me to meet with them after the Sunday morning service. The next Sunday they announced a vote would be held the following Sunday after the morning service. At that vote I was voted in as pastor of this church, once again.
While I sincerely do love the people, I have mixed emotions about returning to the pastorate. So much so, in fact, that I told my wife that I felt like Jonah and that the community was my Nineveh. Much like Jonah, God was calling me back but I didn't want to do. However, I learned from Jonah that it pays to obey God. This is where we are today...doing our best to obey God.
Are we there long term? I can't say. Only God knows. I believe God has us there for a season. That season could be a year, two years, five years or even ten years. I can't say. What I can say is that we are there until God leads otherwise or until the congregation votes not to retain me.
In the meantime there is work to do. There are people to reach. There are believers to encourage. We must equip the believers to do the work of the ministry. God has a plan and we desire to follow that plan He has laid out before us.
I encourage you to follow hard after God and His plan for your life. We are all gifted and God has a plan for each of our lives. There is much to do and little time to accomplish it.
Until next time...enjoy the journey!
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