I experienced a very tangible call to ministry when I was thirteen years old. I can still recall the details of that moment as if it was yesterday. My youth pastor was driving me home after a Bible study, and he asked, “Have you ever considered full-time ministry?”
In the two to three seconds it took for these words to come out of his mouth, something surreal happened. The only way I can describe it is as if time stood still and I had a separate conversation with the Lord. In that moment God spoke to me and He called me. I loved the Lord, so when HE asked me to serve, I was all in. In that split second the decision was made. So I said to my pastor, “I have never thought about it until this moment, but I am sure that this is what God is asking of me.” From that moment on, my life would be shaped by the pursuit of this calling.
I have observed that people often assume that the setting of their call will be the setting of the fulfillment of the calling. I made this assumption. Since I was called in the setting of youth ministry, I was sure my call was to youth ministry. Boy, was I wrong.
After seminary I took a position as a youth pastor. Year one was good; I was learning. Year two, some of the bumps started to show. By year five, I was miserable, and it showed in the ministry. My senior pastor took me out to lunch, and I am 99% sure he was about to fire me. In my heart I knew it would be unfair to the church to go through this conflict, so before he could get the words out of his mouth, I resigned. No conversation with Melissa, my wife; no job prospect. Just a prompting from the Lord: it was time to go.
This created a crisis in my life. Where do you go when you fail at the one thing you are SURE God has called you to do? I was still absolutely convinced that God had called me, so the only logical way to interpret this situation—at least in my mind—was that I failed. I thought I was done in ministry.
The next three months were difficult, but so very important. For the first time I considered the possibility that God’s calling was not to a position, but to obedience in whatever He asked of me. That was hard for me because it meant I would have to step into ministry settings that scared me. I would have to follow to places I had never journeyed and lead in settings beyond what I thought I could handle. I would actually have to trust God with this calling.
God graciously placed us in a beautiful church in Prince George, British Columbia. It was there that God healed much of what was broken in me, gave me hope for a new future, and gave me joy in ministry that I had never experienced to that point in my life. From there God moved us into church planting in Calgary, Alberta, before God moved us to the international office of the NAB.
Obedience to the calling of God has been the adventure of my life. It is nothing like what I expected when I was a thirteen-year-old kid: very defined, very predictable. I would never have anticipated the places God has taken us, the beautiful relationships God has provided, or the challenges that have stretched us. I don’t try to anticipate God’s calling anymore. I no longer think of God’s call as a particular role, but as a journey of obedience.
Melissa and I continue to explore God’s calling, and most recently the challenge has been in the context of our neighborhood. Once again I am being stretched and shaped. God’s call always seems to knock rough edges off me, and that is a good thing. I am so thankful God is patient and that He continues to call.