It was a bit unusual for my sr. minister and I to have a private meeting. At least, it was unusual for him to schedule the meeting. Usually when he and I would meet it would be for me to express ideas or frustrations I had regarding our church. Needless to say, I was anxious to see what this was going to be about. I think it was 9:30am when I walked into his office and sat down. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, but then it was straight to brass tacks. He had scheduled this meeting to express to me what I already knew, I have a sr. ministers blood coursing through my veins.
While in prior conversations he had given me his blessing to leave, as he began to understand and witness where my giftedness was, this was the first time he was adamant that I start actively pursing a complimentary role in sr. ministry. When we were done speaking, we prayed. I walked out of his office feeling an emotional cocktail of sorrow, freedom, and wild excitement.
Now, since I first stepped into vocational ministry my ideology has always been the same: “I will be in this ministry until the day I die, or God says otherwise.” I love my students dearly, and it was going to take God moving in a big way to get me to pursue ministry elsewhere. It was a combination of this meeting, and later events, that convinced me the time was now.
After this meeting I called a former mentor and boss of mine, Don Sanders. We spoke, he gave me some great input, and then suggested I come to St. Charles to meet with Ben Merold (minister at large for Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, MO). Realizing my need for counsel, and time away from home to pray and be still, I planned this trip for the following week.
I believe it was two days before my St. Charles trip when I called my financial advisor, Kevin Daniels, to discuss finances in light of the potential transition. As I explained what was going on, our conversation began to passionately diverge into tangents. Kevin and I are both guys who are easily excited when it comes to Kingdom work.
Anyway, one tangent led to another, and finally landed at my trip to St. Charles. His response to this was something along the lines of: Your kidding me, I am in St.Charles right now. My schedule was booked, but I had a cancelation Monday morning. Do you and your wife want to meet for breakfast? My response to this was of course, “yes.”
Our trip to St. Charles was riddled with what would appear to the world as coincidences. However, to the faithful, there can only be so much coincidence until you must consider that God is moving. As we meet with Kevin he spoke of the church he attended in Ansonia potentially being open to bringing on some one in light of recent growth. He also spoke of how on fire, and discipleship focused the church was. This conversation, of course, got us both fired up.
After breakfast my wife, Jill, went back to my Aunt’s house (we were staying with my aunt while we were in St. Charles), and I went on to meet with Ben. As Ben and I met, he was extremely encouraging, and offered a great deal of practical wisdom. One of the first questions he asked me was about whether I had been considering anything in particular. I told him that my heart longed for Southern California or Florida. Now, I know what people think when some one says, “God called me to southern California.” They think, “Sure he did.” However, my heart was not simply longing for sunny seventies, or looking to manipulate God’s will. I simply wanted to be close to family, and was letting that request be made known to God through prayer and thanksgiving.
I expressed to Ben that, though there were not any applicable openings in California, I had found some appealing churches in Gainesville, FL, and other locations. I also mentioned what Kevin and I had discussed at my previous meeting. After all had been said, he counseled me to seriously consider two of the many options I had shared with him. The first was Gainesville, FL. The second was Ansonia,CT. After our meeting he extended and impromptu invitation to a ministers lunch taking place on HCC’s campus. During the lunch the subject of the Q&A which was being held was, wouldn’t you know, transitioning into and out of ministries.
Jill and I prayed a lot when we got back home. The last thing I wanted at that time was to move to, literally, one of the furthest US geographical locations from my family. So, I called Gainsville, they had filled the position. Then, I called Kevin to see how serious this opportunity was. Before long, both Jill and I were on a plane bound for Hartford.
During our trip there we fell in love with the church.We both felt at home, though we were amongst strangers. We both felt comfortable, though we were miles away from anything remotely familiar.
On the trip back I said to Jill,“I have been thinking, I really don’t want to go to Connecticut, but I really want to go to that church.” She agreed. We both knew God was going to have to help adjust our hearts to help us fall in love with both the place and the people. Over the course of the next week, we would witness this change occur.
The position was officially offered to me the day after I got back home. I sought counsel, I read scripture, Jill read scripture, we listened to sermon after sermon together, we prayed, and all this lead us to one conclusion: We had every reason to believe God was and is paving the road for us to go and make disciples in a place we never thought we would.
It was on Monday April 1st, 2013 when I called Jim at Ansonia and officially accepted the position. So, to summarize: I was accepting a ministry position that did not formally exist, in a church that does not have the budget to pay me, in a place that I never thought I would go, thousands of miles away from the family that I was trying to move close to, and you know what, it felt great to say yes.
Since that decision, my wife and I are becoming increasingly anxious to make the move and start living out the great commission on the east coast. We are excited to be entering into a stage of life that requires faith in God’s leading and promises rather than existing independently of it. Not that we have not had faith, but that our life has not presented us with opportunity to really put it to the test.
We understand that there is a lot of hard work and life change ahead of us, and we do not romanticize this truth in anyway. However, is their anything more romantic that serving God regardless of the cost? We don’t think so, and we see God proving this over and over as the pieces to this puzzle begin to align in-spite of the obstacles that stand in the way.
The road to Connecticut is paved with faith, guided by God’s direction, and traversed with the vehicle of sacrifice. We are ready, and we are willing. Please be praying for us, for the church, and for the kingdom work we so strongly desire to accomplish as we depart from Warrensburg, and move to Ansonia.