Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Will Browning, Lead Pastor of a Journey Church, a multi-site church ministering in the Charleston, SC, area. Dr. Browning is husband to Tarah, father to Piper, Ethan, and Jedidiah, a coach to church planters, and an avid South Carolina Gamecock fan. He is a graduate of Georgia Southern University, Southern Seminary, and Southeastern Seminary. To learn more about Will’s ministry, go to www.willbrowning.com and/or www.journeychurchsc.org
“Is God calling me to a different ministry?”
With pastors staying, on average, between three or four years at a single church,[i] I hear that question almost every month from one of my friends. When a friend asks this question I have found it’s important to have an objective way to give advice.
To evaluate if God is calling you to a different ministry, answer these five questions sequentially. Only move forward when the previous question has been sufficiently answered.
Question #1 – How strong has my walk with God been during the last 60 days? I advise anyone contemplating a transition to move only under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If your time alone with God has been sporadic, do your family and your church a favor and postpone any life-altering decisions. If your walk with God has been solid, then you can move to the next question.
Question #2 – Has God opened up an opportunity? Within our own ability, we can sometimes generate opportunities with a few well-initiated conversations, but I suggest you wait patiently until God opens up an unprompted opportunity. Also, do not waste emotional energy on hypothetical opportunities. If God has opened up an unprompted opportunity, then address the next question.
Question #3 – Is my excitement rooted in a lack of contentment? I have a friend who left his church because he was “bored” and looking for a “better ministry.” Against good counsel, he took a larger church; after six months, a powerful group in the church called for his resignation. Months later, he was out of the ministry and selling insurance. Be very leery of making a transition during times of discontentment.
Question #4 – Do trusted mentors affirm the transition? If we ask our chosen “right” handful of people, we can get affirmation for any decision we want to make. At the same time, with a series of well-constructed sentences, we can make any decision sound like God’s calling. I have found the best advisors are people with the gift of wisdom who love you the most, know you the best, and can read you when you’re trying to manipulate the situation.
Question #5 – Does this new opportunity create greater ministry alignment? In my opinion, an affirmative answer to this question is the best reason to consider a new opportunity (assuming the questions to the answers above are on target). But you must first have a clear understanding of your own unique calling. Seeking clarity on your personalized, God-given directives will take much prayer, counsel, and introspection. Do not seek to establish clarity of calling while you are dealing with a potential transition. You won’t think objectively.
If the new opportunity you are facing is a God-given opportunity that comes during a season of strong connection with God, that trusted mentors affirm, and that creates greater alignment in your personal calling, I advise you to take seriously the opportunity before you. Otherwise, be patient, practice endurance, and draw close to the Lord as you continue to serve where God has placed you.
[i] Thom Rainer, http://thomrainer.com/2014/06/dangerous-third-year-pastoral-tenure/