August 15, 2010 was my official stepping down of pulpit ministry. It was mutual. It was not until years later that I recognized that Mary was given insight that the number eight referred to August, and the word ‘out’ referred to me leaving pulpit ministry.
The days and weeks that followed were emotional. Looking for ministry work. Looking for any kind of work. Still trying to minister to those who were hurt with the outcome.
On September 28, 2010 I recorded into my journal the following:
[A friend] helped me formulate this:
Time cannot heal all wounds because time is not the Great Physician.
The days of those three months were filled with activities. In their own way, those days were exhausting preparing for our move, wherever it took us. Come December, we knew where we were going, back to Texas.
The last day of September 2010, we had dinner with some friends. He was also a minister, but a minister for a different group of Christians. He told my wife and me that we were being tested. At the time, I was not sure what that meant, not even sure I believed him. As I have been conveying, I was full of doubt and disbelief, but hey, that’s where I was.
But he was spot on, because after reflection, his words were in harmony with the words of many others. All I can say is that I wrote in my journal:
I am not looking forward to any ‘tests’ but I am more afraid not to draw near to God.
After we talked with our friend, I recorded in my journal:
I told him that if I never made it back into the pulpit that it would be okay with me. He shared that he felt similar when they moved from [one state] to Washington, Indiana, but that God opened an opportunity for him to preach and he enjoyed doing so.
I include that because of what I am going to share. At that time, I was so ready to throw away ministry, I couldn’t have cared less about the pulpit, and to a large degree still don’t want or care about being a pulpit minister.
But based upon what I have been told, there is work for me to do in the church. I am just not sure exactly how that ‘ministry’ will manifest itself.
During those days, Mary contacted another Christian, a man. He would give me a Word from the Lord. I remember receiving his phone call. I went outside. Sat in one of our vehicles. Took notes. His call occurred October 1, 2010.
He conveyed ideas about turmoil and my life being upended, but in God’s perfect will change is for the better. I thought those first few days were tumultuous, they paled in comparison to the coming years.
But he spoke of God controlling my life and directing me into paths that he originally intended for me. That is something that has always sat uneasy with me. I had no idea what that meant then, but I think I am beginning to figure it out.
From all my reflections and experiences, I came to a conclusion. While many people were pleased that I was a pulpit minister, and while many people benefitted from my service in the Kingdom, that particular style of pulpit ministry was NOT were I was supposed to be.
The biggest thing that testifies to that is: I applied and applied and applied for ministerial work. None came to pass. While there are some who are truly pleased to hear that, their pleasure does not negate other parts of the Word from the Lord, because according to what I have been told, my service in the church is not over, there is something that I am to do.
He told me that God’s hand was upon my life, because God wanted me to learn, and that my life would be upended for a while in order to put my life back together. I can testify that is exactly what has happened. My life was upended. Some would say that it still has to be corrected. God has been involved, much to the dismay of some. At this point, all I will say is that my life is tremendously more peaceful and my marriage and family are far better than when I worked in ministry.
He told me not to be discouraged, but that is exactly what I was. I was discouraged for many years, even to the point of contemplating the ultimate self-harm. Even when encouraged to NOT be discouraged I was.
As I look back, perhaps if I had actually believed that the people were speaking from God, I would have been better, but it took me the better part of five years to actually come to accept that God does things that I cannot explain, and that he leads in ways that I cannot understand, and I allowed that lack of understanding to cause me frustration and discouragement.
He told me that in the future (that was about five years ago), I would be pleased. I am more pleased, and for that I am grateful. These days are good, yet I still look forward to the coming days.
But one of the hardest things to accept was that he said that change comes by God. That means that while the pulpit resignation was mutual, I had to look at the events and God took me out of the work. And that change was only the beginning, because God has changed me profoundly.
He also told me that I was in a different season of my life. Well, when I first heard that I am like: hmm, a season lasts about three months, maybe even a year. I sure didn’t expect it to take five years before my life would become more stable. I have had to let go of so much. Some things I didn’t ever expect. Some things I didn’t want to let go. I had to accept some things that I never wanted to accept. But I can attest that those changes were for the better, and I believe Mary would say the same.
On October 1, 2010, I recorded the following in my journal:
It is of note to me that as I have been looking back over the last couple of months, I don’t think it is an accident nor coincidence that God has me leaving the pulpit.
God seems to indicate that he is going to use this period to teach me something, I am not sure what exactly (at least at this point). But when I read the [Word of the Lord] it indicates that God will allow me to understand the purpose.
But I am confident that stepping down and out of the pulpit is the proper thing to do. So I seek meditative moments, continued reflection… but the coming season (year?) will be interesting.
On the same date, I made another entry, I wrote:
…I have not been preaching at [the congregation]. I have feelings about this and could spend time giving details, but at this point, I would like to let it become ‘water under the bridge’ and move on.
The job hunt for preaching work has not gone as well as I had first hoped. But after receiving the [Word of the Lord], it seems to be God’s plan for me NOT to be in a pulpit. I am kind of relieved because I question my own emotional strength. …but I am emotionally fatigued and really hesitated to begin something that big – again.
Perhaps God is going to rebuild my emotional state.
The month of October came and went. I had a couple of interviews with local businesses. But nothing came to pass.
The month of November was almost finished, and just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, Mary asked another Christian man to give her something for me. Recall, I was present at the meeting with the apostle, and I actually participated in a phone call with the other man. But, what is powerful about this is when he spoke to Mary, I was not present.
Remember, at the time, I was weary and doubtful, but Mary asked for this Christian’s help. When she revealed to me what happened, I was irritated that she would do such. But, over the course of the years, I have found myself grateful for his help.
He spoke in mysteries and images, but spoke favorably of the future. He said that God would expand my horizons of ministry, not just what I would do, but how it would reach out and influence and help others.
But the thing that had to happen first was that my idea of ministry had to change. He said he “saw the hands of the Lord reach down and pick up” my ministry and throw it away in order for God “to expand [my] realm of acceptance of different types of ministry, different modes of operation in ministry, different ways that the hand of God can move and touch people, different ways that people respond to the anointing of God.”
He included, “The possibilities are limitless and there are no boundaries, there are no confines on the extent to which his [my] ministry will reach. In Jesus’ name.”
And concluded, “Be accepting of the way the Holy Spirit moves in people’s lives. It’s okay, manifestations of the Holy Spirit are a good sign that the ministry is being effective. Amen.”
Now, what is important is that this man did not speak to the other man who called me, but both of them say that it is God who changed the course of my ministry. And neither of them spoke to the apostle. And none of them spoke to my minister friend. Yet, all their messages work together. I should not have expected anything less.
Should I be surprised? I shouldn’t be. It’s what I prayed.
But me, because I am such a slow learner, it would take me years before I understood.
Blessings and Shalom