This post is the fourth and final post of my testimony related to becoming increasingly involved in the life of a church and in ministry overall. I allude to the three previous posts in this post. If you wish to read them for context, you can find them in the following links.
Although every person who follows Jesus is called to serve Him in some way, I realize not everyone is called to pastor a church, teach in a seminary, or lead a mission organization. In fact, a true understanding of the body of Christ ensures that such a calling is not possible. Otherwise, who else would be taught? I suppose the answer could be those that are new to the faith, but that is a real stretch of Paul’s words in Ephesians 4.11-13, in particular.
So, I do acknowledge that not everyone will be called in that manner – or, indeed, in any similar manner. But God had other plans for me. As this entire part of the series with my testimony has revealed, God has continued to give me opportunity by placing people in my life that have both challenged and encouraged me. That has led to greater involvement, but more importantly has caused me to develop a deeper, more personal faith. Thus, I have served as a part-time minister, a part-time associate pastor, a full-time pastor, a chaplain/professor (adjunct) at a college and an adjunct at a college seminary, as well as serving as founder/chairman of a mission-based training organization. These last three are concurrent and certainly occupy a great deal of my time, but none of them were on my horizon ten years ago. In fact, it was almost exactly 10 years ago, that I first considered the idea of pursuing a doctorate in ministry. I had not yet finished my master’s but did so rapidly and then pushed through the doctoral seminars at a blistering pace. Subsequently, God opened doors that likely would never have opened.
Again, others were involved. Phil, whom I mentioned in last week’s post, received a couple of calls about needing a youth minister/pastor. I received two calls from two different churches on the same day. One choice was obvious, and after an interview, I began my time as a vocational minister there. Later, Freddy talked me through the process of doctoral work and encouraged me to pursue it. Then Rodney provided an opportunity to serve him as a grader and then as a Teaching Fellow while I completed my doctoral work. That led to opportunities to teach further and eventually being an adjunct. In the meantime, another friend, Gentry, asked me about serving as a chaplain and professor at the college where he served. And finally, a trip to Kenya with my friend Scott began an analysis of how to serve pastors in remote areas with effective biblical training.
So again, it was individuals investing in me which increased my involvement (which was the buzzword for the posts which preceded these testimonials). But involvement is not the goal, discipleship is. And if I was just becoming more involved, I would not have the capacity to do what I am now doing. It took an investment by others, and a trust from others to allow me the opportunities to grow to where I am today.
The reality is that I do not believe God is done with me yet. Again, three years ago at this time, I had no idea I would train pastors internationally. Four years ago, I was finishing my dissertation, so I had an idea that I would be teaching in a Christian institution, but I did not know I would be given so many opportunities to teach (which has provided me tremendous opportunities for personal growth). And 10 years ago, I did not know I would be pursuing that doctorate nor did I fathom being a full-time pastor. And, going back further, 20 years ago, I had no idea I would be in ministry. And 30 years ago, I did not know I would be involved in the life of a church, let alone active in ministry.
My point is that we cannot effectively judge how God might use someone else. Like so many who have invested in me, I need to invest in others. We all do. Again, I may have a calling to do this vocationally, but Jesus commanded all of us to make disciples. And that discipleship began anew with an outstretched hand from Bill in 1991. It continued with Harold taking a risk on me a few years later – and watching me fall flat. But a second chance has led to many other opportunities to date, and potentially more to come in the future.
Therefore, I must be diligent to take the proper risks to help others find their place. I must offer second chances even when people fall flat. I must challenge others to do more than they are doing and more than they may feel capable of doing. I must encourage them to overcome any obstacles and be ready to serve when God calls us to serve. Because, if we are willing, He will call. In fact, He will call. The question is whether we will listen. And that leads me to a final thought.
I submit this last point not to brag because I believe these last four posts have shown that I am an ordinary man who has been given extraordinary opportunities because of God’s grace and the trust that others have had in me. Yes, I have worked hard to accomplish what I have accomplished, but I would not know what was possible without God calling. And that is the point. After a particular event in September of 2010, I have not sent my resume to anyone without being asked. In a particular moment that September, God impressed upon me the words, “Now I know you will trust Me.” And since then, I have been asked to serve a church I did not know existed, asked to teach at a college I barely knew existed, asked to teach at a college/seminary (although I did inquire about the process while I was finishing my master’s, I did not solicit a position), and found church leaders in multiple countries who desire our training (although we have only trained in two to date) without ever sending a resume or soliciting for a job.
Just as I did not expect a handshake 28 years ago to change my life, I did not expect any other these other aspects, but that is proof that God will call if we remain ready. Again, I reiterate that I am not bragging. I can’t brag, I did nothing but try to be obedient. God made it all happen despite my lack of obedience at times. But following Jesus is far different than simply saying, “I am a Christian.” What I have done does not make me better than anyone. The truth is we are all called to be faithful to answer His call. And Luke 12.48 humbles me every time I consider Jesus’ words that those who have been given much will have much expected from them.
So, be faithful to your call. Listen for opportunities for yourself. Perhaps you will find someone extending their hand to you which will put you on a journey you do not expect. Or maybe it is your hand being extended that will help someone else start on their journey instead. Be open. Be ready. Be involved. Be a disciple!