Reflections on Your Calling
One of the inner struggles many leaders experience occurs after resignation or termination. What about my calling? Am I failing in my commitments to God? Does God view me as a failure or a quitter?
One of the most common mistakes we make is to allow our calling to pastor or ministry leader supersede our calling to “follow me.” We experienced great joy when we were first called and came to know our savior Jesus and the bright future Father has in store for us. Years later when we entered the ministry many of us allowed the calling to preach or lead become the all- consuming passion to the detriment of our relationship with Jesus, our spouse, our children and even to the congregation.
I would like to suggest to you a few considerations. First, your original call was to “follow me,” and when we get away from that, Jesus has a way of bringing us back. You and I know it as the desert. A lot of big names in scripture spent a lot of time there, and so will you and I. Even if you are totally fed up and never want to be a part of ministry again, you probably will, because you are extremely important to Father, and He has a plan to refresh you and energize you. It’s called the dry, hot, lonely, desert. The perfect holiday retreat for the angry, disillusioned, depressed, cynical ministry leader!
Second, He may have a new expression of that ministry calling for you to launch into after your vacation in the desert is over. Let me tell you my story in brief and I hope it will give you new insights as to what Father may be doing in your life.
After growing up a latch-key child, I finished high school and became a full-time rock climbing/skiing bum. This involved hitch-hiking around the world a few times, and working to put food in my body. The emptiness of this selfish lifestyle drove me toward God. He knew just when to call me. One day I was walking through the streets of Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in southern Africa.. I turned a corner onto an empty street, and there lying in the gutter was an old woman dying. She was nothing but skin stretched over bones. She was right in the gutter, not on the sidewalk, but down as low as you can get in the street. She held out a frail hand, staring at me with haunting eyes, and she very quietly but desperately pleaded with me for help, her voice gasping some of her last breaths. I stood looking into those haunting eyes. As a young man from Canada I felt totally helpless. I had never witnessed such a sight, and I had zero training to help anyone in this circumstance. I experienced complete helplessness. Digging into my pocket I pulled out some money and handed it to her. Her ghostly eyes stared at me as if to say, “money can’t heal me.”
At this point in my young inexperienced life, I turned and walked away. I just walked away! It has been a haunting me for 27 years. From that fateful day I went on to Bible College, then out into the ministry to pastor churches for 23 years. Like so many pastors, once I became more absorbed in pastoring than I was in Jesus, I slid back into the old selfish lifestyle of city building and empire building. It happens easily over a period of years. City building so often is clothed in very religious garb. It can be subtle.
Every church my denomination transferred me into grew after I arrived. Then, it all fell apart, and the loving Lord Jesus sent me out to the desert for a season. One night while I lay in bed praying, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear. Having totally burned-out and bottomed-out as a church leader, experiencing all the rejection the church heaps on you, and finding myself lying in the gutter, the Holy Spirit told me what God had in mind. My thoughts were transported back to that old woman in the gutter.
She was rejected and dying. She was left on the side of the road while others passed by on the other side. I could not speak her language. I could not feel her pain. I had no knowledge to help her. I had no experience with which to help her. I offered her money instead of love and dignity. I walked away.
The Holy Spirit spelled it clearly. Now, Kim, continue your ministry calling by reaching out to the leaders the church has cast into the ditch. They are rejected and dying. You do speak their language, because you have walked in their shoes. You do feel their pain because it also happened to you and Kathy. You do have the knowledge to help them and the experience to help them because I have prepared you for this. They need love and dignity. You are not the young man who once walked away from a stranger on the side of the road of life. You are now a well seasoned ministry leader having pastored in churches from legalistic, to charismatic. Now, you and Kathy reach out and minister to the spiritually dying on the side of the road.
Please check out our resource page on our website and consider ordering the book, “Unfolding, not Unraveling,” by Dr. Michael Ross of The Pastors Institute. The title and the subject matter dove-tail with this article. God is going to do a lot of good works through you and I yet, and we need to realize the story isn’t over. Please keep in mind your primary calling is “follow me,” not the call of pastor or ministry leader. There are many seasons in life, and you are probably entering a new one now. Take the time you need to unwind, and get over some of the bitterness that has developed in your heart. God will never forsake you and He does have future plans for you. God bless you and our family, and please do give us a call to talk.