The short story is that we’ve been given the green light by the leadership of Trinity to plant a church together in Worcester, MA. This was our hope in entering the church planting fellowship and we are excited. Read below for the fuller picture.
All through the Christian life there is the tension between God’s activity and ours. At the center of the Christian story is a God who takes the initiative to rescue people and yet this rescue always involves a human response.
In my life a significant area in which I have felt the tension between God’s activity and the human response has been my call to be a pastor. Through seminary there was a growing sense of confirmation that I was meant to enter the ministry. However, after eight months of looking for a place to serve, it seemed like I was going no where. A few years later when I was in a similar position of looking for my next pastoral role it was over a year of waiting. In these and other instances God has continued to say to my heart, “Yes, I want you to serve me as a pastor.” But the internal sense of calling and the external reality of being offered a position, don’t seem to run on the same track.
When I came to Providence to serve as a church planting fellow part of the position was to ascertain whether I was supposed to work with Trinity and start a church somewhere. Through the time of fundraising leading up to our arrival in Providence and over the four months we’ve been here there has been a growing awareness that God wants us to go forward in beginning a new church. The big question, was whether the leadership of Trinity would feel the same. And just recently they said yes.
This endorsement is important in that God works through people to lead us. There is a great passage in St. Paul’s letter to Timothy (a younger guy he was mentoring) that follows these lines. Paul says, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” In Timothy’s life is a gift and call to ministry that comes from God but is somehow confirmed or conferred by man. Here we see agreement between God’s supernatural working and the discernment of Christian leadership. This mutual confirmation is meant to propel Timothy forward in service to God.
Ultimately our call to beginning a new church comes from God but it is essential that it be confirmed. Going forward there will be great challenges so I need to know that I did not enter this path simply by my own decision. Our movement towards church planting was not pursued in a vacuum but under the guidance of the leaders of Christ’s church. God wants me to have great confidence in his call and so strengthen me for a more vibrant ministry. Without such confirmation we would not go forward.
With all the benefits of the confirmation of God’s calling, I also need to guard myself against an inordinate desire for the endorsement of people. There are important ways in which I cannot look to the endorsement that comes from man. In politics you look for the right groups to stand behind you so you gain power. In sports endorsements come with incredible financial payback and a sense of personal aggrandizement. On the back of books the positive reviews of important figures cement your reputation as a person of intelligence and sophistication.
I must not look for such endorsement. As much as I need the confirmation of my calling to come through God’s appointed leaders, I can’t look to any person or group of people for a confirmation of my worth, for some sense of importance, or for an identity outside of what God has already given me in Jesus. I need to have the right perspective of listening to others for confirmation of God’s direction without listening for a substitute of God’s love and validation.