I just recently had a Call from a church in Illinois, asking me to come and be their senior pastor. I have to admit that such a contact is, at first, an ego booster. It’s nice to know that somebody wants you. But, then the reality of discerning God’s will pops that ego bubble and reminds you it’s NOT about you. The only path for real contentment and joy in life is to give up any thoughts of self-glorification and humbly follow where God’s leading, even if it’s not where my ego would take me.
The hard work of spiritual discernment involves Bible study, prayer, introspection, conversation and logical analysis. God’s Word reminds me to put Jesus first in all decisions (Thumbs Up to Him!). I want, most of all, to go where I can be used to bring the most people into a close relationship with the Bridegroom, Jesus. Where do my gifts fit best to help achieve this? I also want to go where my next most important relationship, that with my wife, can grow deeper in the Lord. In addition, I need to consider the impact on my relationships with my children and other family members. Will a move help or hurt such relationships? Will a move help them grow closer to Jesus? Of course, I need to discern which congregation seems to be the best fit for me at this time. I need to reevaluate my current Call while also closely considering the new Call. Finally, how would a move impact my relationship with the world beyond either congregation? What doors of opportunity for witness would open or close? THAT’S A LOT TO CONSIDER! It can, indeed be overwhelming. That’s why it’s essential to remember the words of John the Baptist, “I am not the Christ!” (John 1:20) Honestly, Almighty God can work good through me or sometimes in spite of me, in either Call. After this “grace” check, I humbly continue in prayer for wisdom and peace. Then, I turn to what I have found to be the best route in big decisions like this. I go in the way that causes the least spiritual distress. I don’t look for the perfect answer. This side of heaven, there will never be perfection. No path will be trouble free. But, instead, I seek the path that leaves me with a sense of inner calm at the end of the day. If I choose a certain path, will I be able to close my eyes and go to sleep calmly, trusting that I’m going in God’s way?
It was such a discernment process that led me to decline the Call to Illinois. Following the “Thumbs Up” process of prioritization in a context of prayer, conversation and analysis, I determined I should continue in my current Call, at least for the time being. This gave me peace. It also gave me renewed vigor to continue serving my Lord, Jesus here. Will it be easy? No! Will it always be where I belong? Only God knows. But, for now, I’m excited to keep following God’s calling in this place. I truly believe it’s my path for ongoing joyful life in God’s way.