Sunday, June 19, 2016

Milestones in Ministry

It's been two years since my last post but that doesn't mean that nothing significant has transpired during that time. Indeed, God's hand has worked unceasingly in my life and the lives of the congregations I serve to bring us closer to His intended design. As I begin my sixth year serving my charge, a record tenure for any previous pastor dating all the way back to 1875, I pause to reflect on what this means and where God is leading me and the churches I serve.

In a previous post I talked about meeting with my DS to quit the ministry because the time requirements of my weekday job combined with the responsibilities of serving two churches left me little opportunity for family  time or self-care. In truth, both were pretty much nonexistent. I haven’t had a vacation or even a medical check-up in 13 years. Annual family reunions weren’t attended on the weekends when I was required to be at Course of Study. The clashes vying for my personal time seemed to be endless…

But then God answered my prayer to bring an end to the myriad of conflict of responsibilities in my life when I was laid off on May 23, 2015 from the defense plant I had worked the previous 12 years. I spent the next 6 months helping to rebuild a 70 year-old Baptist church sanctuary that was re-purposed as classroom space for the summer camp my congregations help to staff and support.

After all the stress that I had endured just trying to cover all the bases in the years preceding, this “time-out” was just the therapy I needed. I’m now gainfully employed in a much less stressful environment and no longer face a 100 mile round trip commute every day to hold down a job. Thank you, Lord! This significant change in my life has shifted my viewpoint of ministry from just another responsibility I have to fulfill, to seeing it as a precious gift from God.  I really, really needed that!

With this change in perspective has come renewed vigor in ministry to the congregations I serve. And, the churches have responded in-kind as we are much closer now and act more as a family. As we read between the lines of Paul’s epistles to the churches he served, we hear the words of endearment in his paternalistic writing style. I have long believed that this is the relationship God intended for a spiritual shepherd to have while tending his flock.

Jesus provided the most excellent example of this in the 3½ years he ministered with his disciples. Wesley invested himself greatly in the societies and classes he formed. In essence, we are called to be a family of faith. I knew that all along but didn’t have adequate time to spend with my biological family to maintain healthy relations, much less my church families.    

I never dreamed that there would ever be an end to the conflicting chaos of my life, but God had a plan. I am now living out my passion, which for so many years was just an unfulfilled dream, in service to Him. Thank you, Lord!