Do you recognize when it’s time for a change?
How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?
I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently, so I decided to write about it again. (I always note that this post is written about my experiences for people who may currently need it.)
Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life.
I think it is important, however, to realize that God uses unequalled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same time, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.
This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new. Here are five steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:
1. Wonderful, sweet success. Each time the door of a new opportunity opened, it began opening when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.
2. Inner struggle. I usually have not been able to understand what God was up to, but there was something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I knew God was doing something new. While I did not know what it was, and not even if it would involve a change in my place of ministry, I knew God was doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I knew there was something out there, but at the time I couldn’t discern it. (I’m glad I’ve had the Holy Spirit, though, to help me!)
3. Closeness to Christ. Brennan Manning calls it the dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment, I would be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back, I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually was just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many times God was giving wisdom to share with others and, looking back, I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.
4. Opportunity presents itself. The opportunities often seemed to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now, I can see the pattern that occurred each time. It was only after these first three experiences listed above that God brought a new opportunity my way. That is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say, “Yes Lord. Here am I. Send me.”
5. I surrendered to God’s call. After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God was leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayed my response, wrestled through the difficulty and consulted many advisors, but I’ve never refused. That does not mean it has ever been easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we were in the center of God’s will for our life.
A special word to your spouse: Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in any of our ministry places, but she has always aligned with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective here.
Have you shared these experiences? What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?.
Written by Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. He is also a church leadership consultant who is passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Prior to ministry, Ron had more than 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner. Follow Ron on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog at ronedmondson.com.
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