Updated: May 25
“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 near Wichita, Kansas. I didn’t think they were forever words, but I truly didn’t know… that was up to Him. I just couldn't believe that they had come out of my mouth.
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the spring of 2018. A church south of Wichita 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 Kansas was the last church in our long search and we took a "covert trip" down to Kansas to hear from the Lord about it.
I had previously connected with the denominational leadership there in Kansas and to say that I was impressed would be an understatement. Could this finally be the church and location that we had been looking for?
When we drove into the town, we were captivated by it. Quaint would be an understatement. When we pulled up to the church, its façade seemingly matched the town… quiet, quaint, and unassuming. Being a Saturday, the parking lot was empty. We were counting on that fact. Often times, to hear the Lord, you need to silence the noise around you.
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”. Four words that I doubt I will forget.
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 her own four words, “What does that mean?”
And that is when I uttered the five words that started this story: “We’re not in ministry anymore”.
I need to stop the story here to give some background:
Ministry is my life's calling from Him. I had been doing ministry in some form or another since I was 16. I had been a pastor, chaplain, and even spent over 10 years traveling all over the country as an evangelist. In fact, it was as an evangelist that the Lord had me to start coaching pastors. It wasn't called coaching back then, just one pastor helping another pastor.
You know, it was hard when the Lord shut the evangelistic ministry down in late 2007, but at least He had moved me from that back into a full-time pastoring. It still made sense to go back to pastoring, because I was still in vocational ministry. Ministry was my calling after all. Which is why the 5 years prior to this moment in Kansas had been so confusing. We had searched and searched for our next ministry role over those 5 years. However, the Lord had constantly just closed all of those doors, and that day in Kansas, He had closed the last of those doors.
I was finally beginning to accept that I was "on the shelf" from public ministry.
This certainly isn't the end of this story. You are probably thinking, "Of course not, I can see that there is much more story to read. I can't wait for the great end of this story." I will get there, but many important lessons lay here, in the middle of the story. Lessons about following Him when it seems to be the wrong direction. Lessons about trusting him over your own experiences, hopes, and wants. Lessons about just following Him, because He is who He is; and because He came and did what He did; and because He loves you as He does.
And please understand that it wasn't that the Lord had stopped my ministry. It was that He had paused my public ministry. But why?
See, He had told me a few years prior to that moment in Kansas, to focus on ministry to my family. However, it literally took coming to the end of myself in that church parking lot, to understand that focusing on ministry to my family was not to play second fiddle to any other ministry. He was calling it to be my focus.
Well, what now?
I stepped into a new secular job and tried to focus on pastoring my family. I still didn't fully understand at the time how much they needed that ministry. So, at that point, I was still operating more out of obedience than from a place of vision and calling.
Look, it is hard to lay your dreams, hopes, desires, and calling down. It is hard to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. Not that ministry to my family was a cross to bear, but giving myself up like that certainly felt like one at times.
Fast forward to over 3 years later. I was focused on pastoring my family, as the Lord had called me to do. God was moving mightily. My secular work was going stellar. In fact, after a series of promotions (where I had started as a business and sales coach), I was now running the day-to-day operations of the business coaching company that I was working for and was in line to become CEO. God was moving mightily. And, as I have been doing much of my adult life, I had again started coaching a couple of pastors/missionaries pro-bono in my free time, as the Lord brought them to me. God was moving mightily.
But there was some confusion in our lives. Within the last year and a half, God had spoken to me through two different people (who still to this day have no idea of the other's existence) the same message of my return to ministry... and get this, it sounded like returning to the travelling and preaching ministry again. I had learned enough at this point though, to not try and help God. He obligated Himself to this return, and He was going to bring it to pass - in His time and His way.
His way began with me resigning from my job running the business coaching company.
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. Who knew when He would open any ministry doors. We knew that we were still called to ministry, but we were waiting. I wasn't about to try again in futility to pry those ministry doors open.
But then, His call back to ministry came... beginning with the full-time ministry of Transformational Ministry Coaching at that. Yes, I initially kicked against that calling. I didn't want to coach pastors full time. I didn't want to rest my family's livelihood on that. Most pastors don't want to be coached. They need it! Oh, do they need it, and often times they know they need it. But most of them still won't accept it... because sadly, they are being driven by pride and/or fear. 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 to ministry coaching came through unexpected means. The Lord didn’t even speak the calling to me directly, but through various different people (again, independent of each other). I was a bit bewildered. I have come to understand much more why He called me in this way. I had no idea the leap of faith I was about to take, and how much I needed to know that this calling was not all in my head.
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 work-wise and I had also been coached by some to continue my secular job-search during the time that we were launching Grats. 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 about to come quickly. The job search landed me a FANTASTIC job offer, making more money than I had ever made - with an ability to make even more than that. And with that offer came an uncomfortableness in my spirit. Troubling might be a better word for it. Again, the Lord used multiple people to seemingly confirm that we were to say "no" to that job and its promise of financial stability, and take a leap of faith in launching full time with Grats. So, we obeyed and took that leap of faith.
I don't want you to think that we made this faith-leap lightly. I was terrified to the core. Especially because getting pastors to even consider ministry coaching had been like pulling teeth (Like I thought it would be). In fact, we actually started with business clients doing Transformational Business Coaching, months before we ever brought on our first ministry coaching client. (We didn't realize at the time that this was the Lord making sure that we kept one arm of Grats doing business and sales coaching.)
So, yeah - I was a little worried. Not that the Lord's calling 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 I had missed the Lord. I have ALWAYS tried to learn from ever misstep, every mistake. And to this day, I always live in a deep gratitude for the grace and mercy shown me. It drives me to serve the Lord, and give back to Him by giving to His kingdom. It is part of what drives me.
But now you know why He needed to speak through multiple people. Could we all be wrong? No! Surely, we were on the right track - His track!
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.
It wasn't more than a few weeks later that the first test would come. Bills were quickly coming due... bills that I had no way to pay. And, in my soul’s reassessing (yes, again with the reassessing) whether or not our leap was truly of the Lord, my heart quietly put a “fleece” (as in Judges 6:36 - 40) before Him – unbeknownst to the rest of me. My heart had covertly determined that if the Lord would provide for these bills "on time", then this would finally confirm to me that the leap of faith 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 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!
Awesome miracle, but what does this have to do with the moment in the church parking lot in Kansas?
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... was of Him. And if the leap of faith was truly of Him, then Grats was of Him. And if this all was of Him, then... 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 any type of vocational ministry, and just over 10 years since we had last been in full-time, vocational 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 six figures a year, more than he had made at his last job.
About a year later, the Lord opened the door for traveling and preaching/speaking ministry to be part of the Grats portfolio. (I know, you may have seen that coming much earlier in this story, but we didn't.) And about 6 months after that came the call to build out the Pastoral Search Committee Operating System.
So, what is the leap of faith that the Lord is calling you to? Maybe it is something as simple as putting your pride down and contacting Grats for coaching. Whatever it is, I will leave you with this: Follow Him! Do what He is calling you to do. And let His cross keep reminding you that He loves you enough to know what He is doing when He asks you to take up yours!
We bless you in Jesus' name!