Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Spiritual Pilgrimage

"God does not call the equipped; He equips the called" - Anonymous

I never maintained any desires or ambitions of becoming a pastor - it just sort of happened. And, I certainly never harbored any belief that I had the capabilities to actually be effective in that role, either. However, I do believe in God, and that through Him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Thus, seemingly, He has accomplished what I believed to be the impossible in me. More than anything else that I have learned through ministry is there are no exceptions to this verse found in Matthew's Gospel. Had I never embarked upon this particular pilgrimage I most probably would still be living in denial of what God can accomplish through others - especially as it pertains to me.

I've also discovered that I am not alone in this manner of thinking - it's actually quite commonplace in the church.  A couple of years ago I met the pastor of a declining African-American congregation in my parish. As we began conversing about outreach opportunities in the community he told me of a summer camp his church had hosted two years ago for the at-risk children in the area. These were the children on the school lunch program during the school year and many were now missing those meals now that it was summertime. The pastor wanted to host the summer camp again. His church, which not only supplied children with two meals a day, but it also sent additional food home with them. Unfortunately, the church lacked the financial and human resources to make this vision a reality on their own.  

He also confessed that as result of their limited resources his church had partnered with a non-profit agency to staff and fund the camp held previously. Unfortunately, the site coordinator for that agency absconded with the funding midway through the summer and left the church liable for payroll and other expenses. Still stinging from this experience, the church had not pursued hosting another summer camp even though the overwhelming need was evident. I responded by pledging my support if the church could be persuaded to host a summer camp for the coming year and we agreed to see if we could elicit support from our perspective churches to this end.

After fledgling support was garnered at my two churches my brother-in-Christ died of a massive stroke and left his church without a pastor. Suddenly it was just the "crazy-talkin' preacher from the Methodist church" trying to lead the project forward and I encountered the same lack of confidence in this small congregation as I had always harbored about myself. Finding myself in familiar territory, I led the congregation in prayer and organizational meetings and let the Holy Spirit due the rest. Miraculously, funding and volunteer support materialized from the other churches in the community. God's hand was clearly already at work before we even began.

I took a week of vacation from work to get the program off the ground. Launching the program was not without pitfalls and hardships but it was awesome to witness the young lives being touched everyday and give the other congregations an opportunity "plug-in" for hands-on mission and outreach in their own community. It had been this side benefit of the program that had been a real motivator for me to partner with the little Baptist church - I wanted to give my congregations a chance to respond to an apparent need and get their hands dirty doing the work of Christ in their own backyard.

Through the pursuit of this ministry the little church has discovered that God has given them all the resources needed to carry on His work, even without a pastor. They have already announced that they will host a summer camp next year.  My two congregations have discovered that they, too, have been entrusted with confidence that only comes through Christ while serving their community in ministry and outreach - they CAN do it.  As for me, well, I just stand in awe once again of what He can accomplish through seemingly unwitting individuals, who with one step of faith, become shaped by His transforming powers in their lives. People like me. 

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