Thursday, May 5, 2016

Open doors

When a person begins to serve God he or she never knows what doors God might open. Very shortly after I was saved I knew that God wanted me involved in ministry, but I wasn't sure what that might look like. I was married with two children and a good job in a factory. I had no education beyond high school and saw no way to get further education. I was involved in our local church teaching a Sunday school class and serving as a deacon when our pastor asked if I had ever felt called to the ministry.

A few months after that the church granted me a license to preach, and then nothing. The church had called a new pastor whose theology was more liberal than mine. I was never allowed to preach in the church that licensed me. I wrote to our judicatory leader telling him of my availability to fill the pulpit. He responded that once I earned my MDiv he would be glad to help me find a church. For a year no preaching opportunities appeared.

Slowly, such opportunities did come. Independent churches began to ask me to fill the pulpit when their pastor was away. Several months later a church in which I was raised asked me to serve as their interim pastor. A few months later they called a pastor, and I had no place to preach. Soon a neighbor told me of a small church in our county that was looking for a pastor. I contacted the church, and a few months later became the pastor of Hebron Baptist Church. I served there as their bivocational pastor for the next 20 years.

While serving in that church I did graduate from a Bible school and later earned a bachelor's degree. In 2000 our Region asked me to serve as an interim Area Minister. Although I had good relations with our former Area Ministers I wasn't sure what all the job entailed, but I felt led to accept it. Later that year the interim label was dropped as I accepted the call to be the next Area Minister.

I never dreamed such a ministry would be offered to someone without a seminary degree, and at one time I'm sure it would not have been. For the next 14 years I served in that ministry until I retired at the end of 2015.

The reason I share this brief overview of my ministry is because of a question I was asked last week. Another minister asked if I ever thought I would have the opportunity to speak to bivocational and small church pastors across the country and write books that would encourage and support them. Frankly, I've been surprised at every door God has opened for me. I've never felt qualified for any ministry that has come my way. Perhaps I'm the poster boy for the saying: God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called.

I felt called to serve as the pastor of that small, rural church even though I knew very little about pastoral ministry other than what I had observed in my pastors. I felt called to judicatory work even though I did not have the experience or the education most people bring to such ministries. I felt called to write the books I've written even though when I began I didn't have a clue how to write a book or get it published. I felt called to travel the country to speak to bivocational and small churches pastors and try to provide them with some resources that would help them. And in every case, God has opened doors that only He could open.

You may struggle at times wondering if God can ever use you in some significant way. If you are serving him in any kind of ministry, you are already being used in a significant way. Never look down on your current ministry. In God's time He will open the doors He wants you to walk through. Our role is to be faithful where we are, continue to grow in our relationship with God, and be willing to walk through those open doors. You may find God will take you places you never thought possible.

No comments: