A few posts ago I alluded to some big decisions that John and I were making. The decisions have been made and I'm finally able to share them.
My husband is a pastor and was recently approached by two churches, asking him to consider interviewing for the pastor positions they had open. In our denomination, pastors are not assigned to churches; the job search process looks more like dating where parties both woo and scrutinize each other to see if they would be a good fit. On the churches' end, the scrutinizing is typically done by both a "search team" and the leadership of the church (staff and elders). When the the search team and leaders think they have found a good candidate, the person is presented to the church and all members have the opportunity to vote "yes" or "no" to offer the job to the candidate. Offering the job is called "extending a call" or- shorter- "calling."
Over the last several months John has been interviewing at these two churches- one locally (we would not need to move) and one out of state, flying distance- not driving (big move).
The process was both exciting and excruciating. We love our current church, but John's desire has always been to preach full time and be the spiritual leader of a congregation. At our current church he is an associate pastor, preaching half-time. When we took the call to our current church, the elders viewed it as an opportunity to invest in a young pastor and have him be mentored by their very talented and experienced senior pastor. We viewed it the same way; we thought it was b a 3-5 year call and three years later it seemed like we had reached the intended purpose: John (and I) has learned so much from the lead pastor at our church, from the church itself, and we felt ready and equipped to move forward to our next calling.
Still, it was hard to imagine leaving. John preached his first ever sermon at this church when he was still a student, six years ago. This church has always loved and respected us, even when we've made newbie mistakes. They have knelt down in service to us time and time again when really, we should have been the ones on our knees. Perhaps most importantly: they are the church that brought our son home. They prayed, encouraged, donated, ate our pancakes, bought my fundraising necklaces, and finally welcomed us home when we arrived as a new, exhausted family of three. We took Arie to his first ever service at this church, celebrated our first Christmas together in its sanctuary, and renewed his baptism with its congregation. When we thought about saying goodbye, our hearts ached.
|John being ordained at our church, Summer 2010.|
|Serving pancakes at our fundraiser, in the church to church people! February 2012.|
|Arie's baptism renewal. February 2013.|
Once we determined that it was time to leave our church, we were left deciding between the other two. John's interviews and visits had gone very well and it looked like he would have two calls to consider. As incredible as it was to have two churches who wanted him to be their pastor, it was... confusing. Again we stayed up night after night, trying to determine where God was leading us. We did a lot of hard emotional and spiritual work to get to a place where neither the idea of staying in our house and community nor the idea of moving to a new house and community were driving factors. In the end we had to answer only one question:
Where could we make the biggest impact in God's kingdom?
We both felt like our hearts were torn because our current city is a very "churched" one. In some neighborhoods there are almost churches on every corner. We struggled with the idea of staying here, wondering if there weren't already enough churches and preachers to accomplish God's work here. But we also struggled with the idea of leaving because we knew the local church was healthy, poised and ready to answer God's call in a big way, whereas the out of state church was struggling with identity issues both big and small. While we felt the city might need more pastors and churches to share God's love, we wondered if we would feel frustrated and impatient (weaknesses with which both John and I struggle) there.
It took a long time for us to work our way through these questions but in the end our decision was made this way: we remembered that God uses us to impact his kingdom through the gifts he has given us and so we asked ourselves where our gifts- primary John's, but mine as well- would be best put to use.
The answer was: at the local church.
All along the process I felt very content to let John make the ultimate decision and when he finally made it I honestly felt more tired than anything else. The process was so long and our future so uncertain, that when he told me which church he was choosing I just thought, "Okay. Phew."
Now we are getting excited. John has three weeks left at our current church and then we start at our new one! I'm excited because this new church already feels like home. It is a place where I want to invite my friends. It's a place that feels very easy, like a conversation with your best friend. It also feels like a challenge. The church's "motto" of sorts is that they are a place for people who have given up on church but not on God. It's somewhat funny to me that we are being called to this church because neither of us have given up on church. We actually like church a lot. And not just the community, but the ritual and the religious practices. We find great meaning and significance in them. It is going to be a very good and holy practice for us to figure out what it means to minister at a church for people who don't like church. We are both filled with prayerful anticipation for the new journey.
John's transition to this new job has also allowed me to make some changes. When he starts in July, I will be able to close my daycare in order to stay at home with Arie and focus more on this blog and my writing. When I started blogging it was a way to help with our fundraising and I thought it would be a story that brought glory to God. In my heart I also hoped it would become something lasting and thanks to you my faithful readers, it has. I joke with John that I know I'm small beans in the blogging world but I'm just so happy that I'M BEANS! I love writing and the fact that our story has meant something to other people- most of whom don't even know us- thrills me. Reading your comments is always a joy. I don't know what the future holds but I do know that God is calling me to keep writing and I'm very excited to see where that leads.
I'm also very excited to go grocery shopping in the middle of the morning! When the stores are quiet! And not at the end of a long day! Yes and amen to that too, no?
We have a lot of changes coming this summer, but for the first time in my life I'm not anxious about them at all. God has seen us through constant change over our five years of marriage and he has never failed us. Our changes are all good ones and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for them. I'm sure we will wipe away more than a few tears over the next month as we say our many goodbyes, but we will be crying them only because we have been so blessed. I'd rather be crying while I say goodbye to something good than dry-eyed with indifference as my companion.
Feeling thankful, excited, and blessed.