Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about my calling as a Christian, and asking myself the hard questions. I have served as a licensed minister in my congregation since 2008. Not a very long time in clerical circles. I co-labor with some wonderful men and women. Some are now entering the vetting process for ordination.
I had been considering whether or not I was ready for ordination myself, and that is when the hard questions came up. But the one question-the one that every minister should ask themselves at some point was this:
Did I make a personal decision to go into ministry, or was I actually called by God?
The fact of the matter is, at the beginning, it was a personal decision. I was invited to undertake minister’s training, and that is what I did.
I have been a Christian since childhood, but as I grew and matured, I never had a desire to be a minister. It just never occurred to me. Then, when given the opportunity to undertake the training, I thought to myself that it would after all be the natural progression for a mature Christian to do. (That’s why many say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing). It stroked my ego a bit too. That I may have been recognized as having the ability to undertake the training made me feel special, and yes, even a bit holier than normal.
Well, needless to say, God through His Holy Spirit took me down many notches over my brief years in ministry. I had to learn that true ministry is humility, patience, unconditional love, and sacrificial service. I also learned that I was not called at the time I went into training, but that I indeed had a calling. It wasn’t until several years later that I was humble enough and broken enough to recognize His voice above all others.
It’s like this. If you have signed up for a class and have been accepted, you are on the roll. But you are not active until the instructor calls your name and acknowledges that you are in that class. If the instructor wants to test the knowledge of his students, many hands will go up to answer, but only one student will be called to answer. And even more rarely will the instructor choose one to go to the front to face not only him, but the remaining students.
Sometimes the instructor will not call on you, even if you believe you know the answer. And sometimes you might hold your head down to try not to be noticed, and the instructor will call on you anyway! And there are some students, who have been accepted and are on the roll-but they skip class.
Well… I’ve been all of those at one point or another. But just like all students, there came a time when I had to decide if I was going to advance to the next level or settle for what I’ve already learned.
As for me, I want to be prepared for the next season of my service to Christ. And what I have chosen to do is seen as a bit “unprecedented”, but it is something I believe more servants should do as an act of submission and obedience as they are led.
I have chosen to submit by stepping down from my official duties for a time in order to spend more time in prayer and meditation. To listen more closely to God for His instructions as to how He wants me to serve. To hear His calling. To be able to obey with confidence knowing that there is nothing left of my ego to get in the way. To know that I am willing to give up my wishes and desires to do just what He has called me to do. No more and no less.
I have submitted to understand God’s expectation of my service, not the world’s expectation-or even the expectation of any religious “establishment”.
For a season, I will participate in church as a congregant, not a minister.
Unprecedented because my submission is not from a controversy or disciplinary measure.
And thankfully, my co-laborers and the governing body of my church are very supportive of my action. So this will not cause any confusion or discord which is of vital importance.
Some may see this as “taking my hands off the plow”. Absolutely not. I am still in the field, but I have paused to listen. To make sure that I am plowing the right row. (Can you imagine a world where all servants did that)? Maybe there would be less controversy in the Church.
I have been asked how I can be “passive” amongst the sheep when I love them so much. But being a Christian is never passive! I can still love them, pray with them, and encourage them. I can move with them, understand them, be happy with them, and grieve with them. The fact is dear ones, whether we are Christians who have answered our callings, are running from them, or just happy to be in the number-we are all sheep! Christ is the one Good Shepherd!
This is just for a season. The timing to be determined by God. When He feels I am ready to move forward, He will move me. I don’t know how long this season will last. I call it my time in the desert.
I had a dear friend who is also in ministry ask me “Why the desert? Why not the wilderness where you can at least find provision?”
My answer is this. I have always found that my most profound moments with the Father are those that I have had when in the desert. In the desert there is nothing but desolation and heat. There is no ego for me to fall back on. No other voices for me to receive counsel from. My knowledge means nothing. My physical abilities mean nothing. When I have nothing else but my ears to hear, then He can speak to me. When my mouth is too dry for my own worthless words to come forth, He can speak for me. When this vessel is finally, finally emptied of all of it’s preconceived notions of what it means to serve and what my purpose will look like at the end, then He can raise me up to be the vessel He called me to be.
Those that read this, pray for me while I am in this wonderful place of brokenness.