I think most of the world has seen my Facebook post from yesterday in which I announced that I am being appointed to serve as the Sr. Pastor of the City Road Chapel United Methodist Church in Madison, TN. In that statement, I acknowledged that I had thought at the beginning of the week that I was going to serve in another position at the conference office, but that the Holy Spirit had other plans in mind. It was a position in which many thought I would be effective (especially since I am currently serving as the interim) and so many have assumed that the appointment is somehow a step backwards from my personal desires and my career trajectory.
But here’s the deal. I am a United Methodist elder. Some 15 years ago I stood before a bishop and annual conference and vowed that I will go where I am sent. I decided at that time that my career future would be discerned by a group of people who were charged with matching my gifts with the needs of the annual conference. Yes, I have gifts which would have been helpful in the conference office setting, but as the cabinet met last week and worked and discerning God’s will for a congregation, my name appeared and after much prayer and deliberation they determined that they me needed more as a pastor than as a communicator . . . and I’m okay with that.
Someone suggested today that the appointment to another pastoral setting was not what I wanted, and several have expressed support thinking that I’m somehow disappointed in the decision. I understand why they feel that way, for the past year has been a tough one personally and professionally, and there was a part of me that was looking forward to the break from pastoral ministry.
But that’s not completely accurate, for while the appointment to City Road was not what I expected, I am excited that the Holy Spirit seems to have something else in mind for me. Serving in the conference office position would have been easy in many ways for I feel competent in the tasks of that job, but God rarely calls us to the easy road. Growth rarely comes through comfort, and my plan was they comfortable one. Was I surprised that God has something else in mind? For sure. But as I talked about a new possibility with our bishop and members of the cabinet I began to see that there indeed might be a purpose behind God’s plan, and that God usually has much more in store for me than I can imagine on my own.
You see, I believe in our system of discerning God’s will for leadership. I have seen again and again times when I wondered what the cabinet was thinking, only to find myself blown away by the grace of God in what I thought was going to be a difficult place. God works through the appointive system — sometimes in spite of us — and God invites us to see with new eyes great possibilities.
Yes, I had it all worked out in my mind . . . but God had other plans, and I’m pumped about moving to a new place, bringing my gifts to share, learning to work with a new staff and a bunch of laity who seem to have a heart for mission. Yes, there will be challenges. Yes, I don’t get to take break from preaching on Sundays. But I trust our bishop and cabinet, and believe that they were faithful in seeking after God’s desires; and I believe in the One who called me to this ministry thing in the first place, trusting that there are exciting times ahead.