It is 7:30 A.M. on a Monday; I am sitting in the cafeteria up on the Hill contemplating the vast changes in my life that have taken place over the last six months. I live in a new city and go to a new school with new people. I even have purchased a new wardrobe. Every article I have written for God’s Heart for Those, whether we published it or not, has had a theme of change. Consequently, it is not a surprise to me that, once again, God has sought to change my attitude. I have never felt more malleable as though I am the clay in the potter’s hands. At first being molded was hard for me to handle, but now I am taking joy in the growth.
Redeeming the Church
One of the other themes of the last few years has been God’s redemption of the Church in my eyes. Since most of my readers know the struggle I have had with the Church, I will not retell the story. Even so, God has been using the events of the last three years to redeem for me His Church and give me a renewed love and passion for it unlike I have experienced before. Qualifying me repeatedly to fulfill His great and glorious mission for His bride, He has been restoring my desire to sit at the wedding supper and eat with Christ.
This redemption has been a major part of my journey. God called me from the PCUSA to First Baptist in Lyons, KS. Next He installed me as the pastor at First Baptist in Stafford, KS. Then He brought to bringing me to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where He has continued to challenge my long held assumptions and viewpoints. He has caused my love for the church to grow so that it is nearly overflowing. I am excited to see what happens when it does overflow.
Giving Up the “My”
Upon arriving here in August I had one goal in mind, apart from passing my classes: to form relationships with pastors in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with the intent of getting onto their ordination “runway”. Having been raised Presbyterian with the beauty of the liturgy, I thought that returning to that denominational structure was the logical choice. And so, that was the choice I made.
Or so I thought.
God has a funny way of directing you sometimes. He will open multiple doors, or rather, you will perceive multiple closed doors to be opened and, as you try to force them open, you will be met with continued frustration. This is God letting you learn. Learn that it hurts to beat your head against a wall, or a closed door. He is teaching you to trust His guidance. I was beating my head against that door. Not only could I not get to an EPC church, I have yet to meet anyone from that particular denomination on campus. I did, however, meet and exchange information with the representative from what I thought to be my “former” denomination. A week ago now I realized that this decision, as to the place I can do the most good as a pastor, is not mine at all. It is God’s.
Whose Choice is it?
It should be that way, should it not? When you are talking about calling and denominational affiliations? Do you really know or can you really determine ourselves where you would do the most good? Should you not rely on the one who has known you since before the dawn of time? The One who “created my inmost being, knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 136:13), has the hairs on my head counted, feeds me, and clothes me. Is He not the One who knows where you will be most effective?
I think that a God who can create and determine the course of the wind can determine the course of this feeble, depraved man better than any other. He is, after all, the Maker of all and is the One who knows me better than I know myself. I would rather have the One who created me guiding my steps rather than trying to decide for myself and wander aimlessly through life with no purpose.
The Internal Debate
But once I make the decision to follow God into the American Baptist Church my insecurities started burning in my mind. “But Jonathan, they are not reformed, and you are. They do not say creeds and you believe the creeds should be said. Jonathan, there is no beautiful liturgy, no form or structure for praising God. They have nothing you want!”
This is all true, but I am called to pastor. Maybe God is calling me to pastor in such a way that is contrary to all those things that I think necessary. Maybe I have to give up that construct of worship again in order to rediscover it, or help others rediscover it. If there is one thing the Anglicans have taught me, it is that worship is meant to be more than just an hour of our time given to God, but a life of worship given to our God. Although most mainline denominations, even Presbyterians, do not follow this model anymore. It is one I love, living with the idea that God is always with us. Maybe God is sending me to the ABC to be a voice for these things.
Who knows? That is the fun part! We will have to see.
Be in God’s Will
In conclusion, there is nothing better than being in God’s will. Walk through the door that He has opened for you. If we are outside of that will, we will continually be frustrated by the things we try to force to happen or the things others force to happen for us. That requires us to give up the idea of “my” in every situation we encounter. We must learn to discern what is God talking and what is the human heart. Being aware that our own preconceived plans may be in the way of God taking us farther than we could ever dream is just part of learning to discern .
In all things strive for excellence, knowledge, will, and self-control to the glory of our marvelous God and King.