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.
4 thoughts on “A United Methodist pastor’s perspective on a pastoral transition”
I thought I had it figured out last year too. And now I have had the best year of my ministry. I pray the same for you my friend.
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I understand you’ll be close by, but a transition is a transition, and we we will be prayerful about yours. Thanks for the hard work you’ve done in the Old Hickory community. Here’s wishing God’s blessings on your work in Madison.
I’m so glad you shared your thoughts and heart further on the subject. What a blessing it is to hear you share this. City Road! I turned off Gallatin Road at that corner so many times in a former chapter of my life. I’ve heard good things about that congregation through the years. Much grace and affirmation as you begin this new chapter.
Well said, Jay. Follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.