Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Actually this could also be titled, "Walking In Faith", "The Lord Provides", "The Lord Is Good", "The Results Of Walking In Faith", etc.
“We’re not in ministry anymore”.
Those were the words that I spoke to my lovely wife as we quietly drove back to our hotel in Wichita, Kansas. (I didn’t think they were forever words, but I truly didn’t know… that was up to Him.)
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the Spring of 2018. A church in Rosehill, Kansas was considering us to be their next senior pastors. We had been searching for our “next pastorate” for almost 5 years, since leaving our little church in Oregon where I had been the bi-vocational senior pastor. During those 5 years, the Lord had constantly closed doors at different stages within the pastoral search process; including once AFTER we were voted in as pastors! This church in Rosehill was the last church in our search and we took a covert trip down to Kansas to hear from the Lord.
Rosehill is a beautiful little bedroom community some 20 minutes south of Wichita. Quaint would be an understatement. When we pulled up to the church, its façade seemingly matched the town… quiet, quaint, and unassuming. I had previously connected with the denominational leadership there in Kansas and to say that I was impressed would be an understatement. So far, so very good.
My family waited in the car, now idling alone in the empty parking lot, as I got out and put my hand on the front door of the church. I began to pray. And I quickly heard four words from Jesus – “You’re not the guy”.
I went back to the car, drove out of the parking lot, and out of the town. My wife was looking at me intently. “What happened?” “What did the Lord say?” I told her the four words that He had told me. Then she asked me, “What does that mean?” And that is when I uttered the words above: “We’re not in ministry anymore”.
Ministry had been my life calling. It still was and still is. But for some reason, the Lord had constantly just closed doors, and this was the last door on our horizon. I was finally beginning to accept that I was "on the shelf" from public ministry. And over those 5 years, and in the years that followed, I had often felt like that lady in the picture above. Everyone else was running in front and ahead of me. (Yes, I had been told by the Lord when I was 17 that that would happen, but it was still difficult for me, in full honesty here.) Have you ever felt like her; like me; like that?
And though that moment in Rosehill felt like (and in fact was) an ending of some things that needed to end, it certainly wasn't THE end of this story. You are probably thinking, of course not, there is more to read. I can't wait for the great end of this story. I will get there, but many important lessons lie here, in the middle of the story.
I stepped into a new secular job and tried to stay busy doing the ministry that the Lord called me to do for that season, pastoring my family. I didn't fully understand at the time how much they needed that ministry. So, I operated more out of obedience in those early years of that ministry than I did from a place of vision and calling.
And oddly enough, that ministry wasn't easy (though it was VERY rewarding!).
Remember, I NEVER wanted to be bi-vocational. And on top of that, there was the fear that I would end up bi-vocational in ministry from now on. And I knew that I didn't fully belong in the business world... I never fit there. So, I always carried the fear of losing my job (and being in sales with a long close cycle really didn't help that feeling). Those jobs paid the bills, but we really never had much extra... Jesus was my safety net and when you struggle in faith, it can feel like nothing is beneath you. Am I being too real here? I am not done yet. Maybe the worst fear was that pastoring my family was just my made-up emotional crutch to help me cope with truly being out of ministry for good. Which brought intense fears of questioning my adequacy for ministry. Adequacy for ministry. It really wasn't until this year that I emotionally understood that Christ crucified is and will be my only adequacy for ministry.
In any case, the fears for me were awful.
Sometimes we underestimate Satan's cruelty and desires.
Fast forward to over 3 years later. I was focused on pastoring my family, as the Lord has called me to do. That part of life and ministry was flourishing (Thank you Jesus!) The church plant in our home had not gone anywhere, another closed ministry door by Him. I had just resigned my Director of Operations job where I was running a "business coaching company" alongside the company's two owners. And, as I have been doing most of my career, I had been coaching pastors and people in ministry "on the side".
I wasn't sure what was next for me or my family. But, I thought that I could land an even better job making even more money. Yes, the Lord had spoken over the last couple of years through multiple different people who don't know each other or each other's words, that I would be returning to a ministry of preaching to various crowds... but who knew when He would open those doors. Who knew when He would open any ministry doors. We knew that we were called, but we were waiting. So, at this point, I wasn’t seeking a return to vocational type ministry, and certainly not in ministry coaching. I wasn't about to try again in futility to pry those ministry doors open.
But then, His call back to ministry came... and ministry coaching at that. Yes, I initially kicked against that calling. I didn't want to coach pastors. They don't want to be coached. They need it! Oh, do they need it, and often times they know they need it. But they don't want it. In fact, one missionary who travels the world coaching missionaries told me that coaching US pastors might be the toughest (ministry) calling there is in the US. And on top of all of this, this unexpected calling came through unexpected means… the Lord didn’t even speak the calling for this ministry to me directly, but through various different people independent of each other. I have come to understand much more why He called me that way. I had no idea the leap of faith I was about to take.
It is important for you to know that originally stepping out into this ministry didn't require great faith. I didn't have much else going on and I had also been coached by some to continue my W2 job-search during the time that we were launching the ministry. It isn’t great faith to launch a business/ministry when you are still working on developing your other options. It is often great wisdom, but not necessarily great faith. But, the need for faith was coming. The job search landed me a FANTASTIC job offer... making more money than I had ever made with the ability to make even more than that. And with that offer came a VERY uncomfortableness in my spirit. Troubling might be a better word for it. Again, the Lord used multiple people to seemingly confirm that I was to say no to that job and its promise of stability, and take a leap of faith in launching full time with this new ministry. So we obeyed and took that leap of faith.
I don't want you to think that I made this leap lightly. I was terrified at the core of who I was... I just didn't fully know that yet. Not that the Lord would have been wrong (NEVER!)… but that maybe I had misunderstood the Lord… that I/we had been wrong. It would not have been the first time!
And then we experienced what the old preacher Smith Wigglesworth stated:
God cannot bring anyone into blessing and into full co-operation with Him except through testings and trials.
It is very easy when in health and strength to make pledges and utter vows, but it is being faithful when the time of testing comes that counts. Little did we know that shortly we were going to have such a test.
Bills were quickly coming due. November first was quickly approaching. Bills that I had no way to pay... I had just turned that offer down. And, in my soul’s accessing whether or not my leap was truly of the Lord, my heart quietly put a “fleece” (as in Judges chapter 6 verses 36 - 40 in the Bible) before Him – unbeknownst to the rest of me. My heart had covertly determined that if the Lord would provide for these great bills on time, then this would confirm that the leap was of Him. And on time for us was noon on November 1st. I didn’t even realize that my heart had done this until a few days before the deadline.
November 1st 2021 was a Monday. I was on the couch that morning just sitting with the Lord, wracked with various emotions, when my wife came bursting into the room (as much as my wife would burst into a room). We had received a pledge for 2/3 of our entire budget for the month of November and half of our budget for December. It had come the night before and we didn't see it until that morning. The money would be deposited the next day. I was floored, and deeply grateful. And then, a few hours later (that same day mind you), we received a sizeable check in the mail from one of our prayer team members. That check covered the rest of our bills for November, and the one outstanding bill from October (that had incidentally been auto paid on our credit card) with a little left over. THANK YOU JESUS!
So, not only had the Lord provided for every bill due on November 1st, He just went ahead and provided for every bill for the month (and the one from the month prior)!
Awesome miracle, but what does this have to do with Rosehill though?
The next day, something bubbled up to the surface of my being. Jesus didn’t just provide for our bills, he had confirmed in my heart through this provision that our leap of faith was correct. And that meant something that I hadn't realized until that moment. I went into the next room where my family was and proclaimed, “Guys, we are in full time ministry again”.
Over 3 years since I had woefully proclaimed our being led out of ministry, just over 8 years since we had last been in vocational ministry, and just over 10 years since we had been in full time ministry!
The Lord will do what He has promised. Sometimes, we have to wait.
Another quote by Smith Wigglesworth (this one hangs in our office):
There is something about believing God that makes God willing to pass over a million people just to annoint you. God will always turn out to meet you on a special line if you dare to believe God.
Oh, and a week later, that same prayer team member that gave the check that had come later in the day on November 1st (that gift was a big faith step for him and his wife, as he had been unemployed for some months)... he was offered a dream job; whose starting pay was about $50k+ a year more than he had made at his last job.