Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Out of the Desert

I had a couple of people ask me to blog on now that I am a pastor...  So here goes.

Am I called to full-time vocational ministry?  I would say yes.  Let me share a story as to why I believe this.  I had two friends of mine John & Kurt both leave the ministry right after I did.  They were so glad to be done with vocational ministry and are very happy in their secular (front line) jobs. In my mind I thought, "How on earth can they be content and be happy to be out of ministry?"  I always was content where God had me BUT I had a deep desire to get back into vocational ministry.  They both thought, "Why on earth would Jeff want to get back into vocational ministry?"  I still think they are crazy (kidding).

One thing I looked at was, do I want to be in voco ministry because I get empowered by the attention? No way Jose!  I would rather stay at home and read, pray, and play with the family.  I would love to have a simple 9-5 and turn off work when I get home. I enjoyed working eyecare.  I could battle and work there, and then leave and leave the stuff there.  To me, this was much easier.  More stress free!  Managers could never figure out how it was stress free, but that is because they have never been in vocational ministry.  Carrying one another's burdens, grieving with those who grieve, dealing with the messiness of sin, this stuff isn't 9-5.  Doing life with hurting people is heavy. It is a load.  It is a joyou load that I am happy to bear, but it is a load none the less.  Second, I am a Christian, husband, dad before I am a pastor.  My identity is who I am in Christ.  I serve as a pastor as a Christian.  My identity is not in me being a pastor.  Albeit, I probably need to grow in the pastoral tact a bit, so as not to cause others to stumble.

So I went from having a blast as a Student Ministries Director (not a pastor officially, though that was my post before God) at a church, where some of the leadership hated me before I came, and continued to while I was there...which led to burnout, anxiety, sleeplessness, and great suffering for my family.  Yet, I also had a great time with the youth,youth leaders, parents, some of the staff, senior pastor and our community friends.  The ministry was booming, people were accepting Jesus, entering the mission field, being discipled, moving into leadership, etc...  So, besides some of the flesh driven leaders, this place was great!!  I went from there to a time of healing and restoration.  We moved to Bremen, and I struggled to find a job.  After that, we moved up to South Bend, due to a new job that paid enough for us to get a house.  During that time, God was so gracious to us.  We felt like Elijah, being cared for by ravens.  It was a time of healing from working 70+ hours a week, from the bitterness that crept into my heart, and a time of deepening of my walk with Jesus.  It was a time to also stretch Shellie & the kids.  There was one time where we had about $25 in the bank and our van broke down on the highway.  I laughed, because I knew that God would have to provide for this one, and I was excited to see what would happen.  He did provide.  He always provided and met both our needs, and many of our wants.  THe greatest thing he provided for was the deepening of our trust.  He also provided by healing our vision problems, so we could see things in our own heart that needed to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
Never before had I been turned down for a job.  I have always landed both any secular and any ministry job that I have interviewed for.  Here, in the wilderness, I applied for over 300 jobs, and landed only 2.  I interviewed for 4 ministry positions, and was hired for none.

I eventually got to a point of being content in whatever circumstance the Lord called me to (January 2016) Then, one day (February 21, 2016) I was sitting on our green sectional, praying.  God put this thought in my head, "Go ahead and ask me for a ministry position."
2 churches started looking at me around then.  One we turned down, and one turned us down twice.
On March 12, 2016 God taught me what a healthy pastor's perspective is.  I was sitting in Joshua Cup, a coffee shop in Crawfordsville. It is to protect, encourage, serve, and equip people to love and serve Jesus (Philippians 2, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 13).  Then on March 16, 2016 we were given a call to Harvest, and we accepted that call.

We are now here in New Market, elated to be serving Jesus and the people of Harvest.  It has been hard to leave our friends and the kid's school.  Last weekend we visited and the sadness of the kids not attending GCS resurfaced, BUT we know that God has called us to enjoy and serve the wonderful people of Harvest.   So far, ministry has bee a blast.  This has been a very healthy and balance group of believers.  The personality of the culture is great.  It is a blessing to be here, and we look forward to faithfully serving here.  We are so greateful for what God has done in and continues to do in and through us.

So, this wilderness part of the journey is done, but there is still a long journey to go.  A journey with Jesus, who never leaves us or forsakes us.  I hope you walk with Jesus too.

Lessons learned
1. Wait on the Lord.
2. Your identity is in who you are in Christ, not in your job or some other temporal thing.
3. God is sovereign. Man may make his plans, but the Lord determines his steps.
4. God does not forsake his children.
5. You are God's servant, he is also your servant.  But, he will not worship you!
6. The prosperity gospel is incompatible with the gospel of Jesus.  His children are not promised riches.
7. Suffering is a good thing.  It builds character and perseverance and wisdom.
8. Our dignity does not come from our job, but on who we are in CHrist.
9. Being a manager was easy, due to my perspective.
10. Perspective is huge!
11. Bitterness runs deep and sometimes unnoticed.  So when you are hurt by someone, cry out to God and learn to recognize when you are hurting.

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