A question often asked of church planters and pastors is, “How do you know if you are called into pastoral ministry?” British preacher Charles Spurgeon once famously answered, “If you can do anything else, do it!”
But, what if the calling of planting and pastoring a church is so strong we cannot ignore it or we don’t have the heart to take up another life pursuit?
I knew from an early age that my calling and gifting was that of pastor or shepherd. Yet, being a female, I just assumed my path was to marry a pastor someday.
Upon graduating from Bible college, God provided me with a ministry position as a chaplain to girls in the foster care system. This began an eleven year adventure with many ups and downs, moments of glory and heartbreak.
This was a unique ministry because the girls had faced a lifetime of profound challenges and pain. I had imagined and prayed that God would bring revival to the girls like many of the dramatic ministry stories I had read about. Instead, it was years of plowing hard ground, planting, and watering seeds. Yet, in the most unexpected holy moments, spiritual breakthrough would occur.
Here are a few lessons I learned along the way that I am carrying over into church planting and pastoring a local congregation.
Focus On Obedience, Not Results
We all want to see immediate results, lives changed and people growing into healthy disciples. But, the girls I worked with had many obstacles to overcome. I did not always see the growth I longed to see. I had to trust God with each one and realize that my job was to “show up,” be faithful, and then pray and trust God with the rest.
Depend On The Holy Spirit
Apart from God, our best laid efforts and plans are futile (John 15). Prayer and listening to God’s voice became a daily necessity. There were many times when I was tired or going through a hard time and had nothing to give. Over and over again, the Holy Spirit would come as I rang the doorbell of a group home. I would gratefully receive direction and empowerment to minister to the kids and staff.
Ministry Is A Team Sport
I also discovered the joy and necessity of having leaders who would seek God with me. We were able to encourage each other and hear God as a collective. When more than one leader would get the same word or direction from God it released such confidence and expectation!
There was no way that I could meet all the needs around me. I began to recognize that God had brought the right people at the right time to do what he desired. My job was to identify giftings, equip, nurture, and then release them as leaders. In this way, the ministry impact was multiplied.
Times Of Refreshing Are Essential
Just like Jesus, our ministry must flow out of relationship with the Father. I found that if I did not spend time with God, having no other agenda than to be in his presence, I was cutting myself off from my Life Source.
I have lived long enough to understand that God does not waste a single experience. If we are willing (and sometimes even if we are not), he will use the hard things and missteps to prepare us for the next chapter.
For us, the next chapter is planting a church in the North Houston area, a church that will be diverse yet unified, a church with a longing and hunger to go after God, to be in the middle of what he is doing by giving him our unqualified YES!
I carry with me a focus on obedience and dependence upon the Holy Spirit, a commitment to the team God assembles, and above all else a desire to be a friend of God.
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