For several months I had been sensing God speaking to me about pastoring a church. My current position as an associate pastor was fulfilling, but in my heart, I felt God wanted me to do more. There was a recurring desire to lead a group of people to reach out and be change agents in our community. But I didn’t know where to begin.
In the pastorate, searching for a “job” is very different from searching for a job in the traditional work sector. And there are rules, but no one really talks about what they are and how to go about it. So mostly new pastors stumble around a bit until someone takes pity on them and offers to help. I was in this stumbling phase.
Then someone took pity on me and offered to put my name before a church board who was looking for a new lead pastor. I was enthusiastically cautious. Our denomination has been ordaining women since its early inception; long before women even had the right to vote. But I had been around the church long enough to know that barriers still exist. So I was surprised how quickly they said yes to an interview with me.
Doors were opening and God seemed to be directing my steps. My husband and I made arrangements for our children while we were out of town for the interview. We left early and arrived at the hotel while it was still daylight. Then we drove around town taking in the community and analysing how we might reach these people with the love of Christ. It was overwhelming!
At one point I looked at my husband and declared that this is “real ministry”. It was colorful and diverse with two distinct people groups. One group was more urban, living in townhouses that may have included some Section 8 housing. The other group was more rural; mostly white, blue-collar families. My brain was overloaded with the possibilities. And I was desperately trying to envision a way to bring these two groups together for the cause of Christ.
The next day was a rich and complex experience. It will be burned in my memory for ages to come. We spent time with one of the board members who took us flying in his personal fighter plane. I’m not sure how many of my clergy friends can say they were interviewed while flying through the clouds…literally. At one point he let go of the controls and told me to fly the plane. We didn’t crash and I counted that as a good sign for the interview.
We had our official interview that evening. It went well and all of the answers flowed freely from my soul. I remember sensing God’s Presence so clearly. One of the board members even tried to prematurely offer me the position. It was a victory for my spirit to sit and share my vision to reach lost and hurting people. The more I spoke, the more a sense of purpose welled up inside. A dream was born. A vision. Something I would never be able to shake.
We left that interview and I was certain I knew what God had planned for our future. To my surprise, they voted against me. The reason they gave was they felt they were not ready for a female pastor at this time. In retrospect, even though it was a split vote, I saw it on their faces. My husband will tell you that it wasn’t because I was a woman, but it was because of the vision I presented to unite their community. But neither answer helped to ease my soul.
I was certain I knew what God had planned for our future. Did I hear Him incorrectly? And what was I going to do with this vision He birthed in my soul? I couldn’t go back. I had tasted something; purpose, passion, a desire to change my world. Now, what do I do with this persistent, nagging vision?
But when God closes one door, He really does open another. I look back now and believe God allowed me to experience that rejection to make me a better pastor. He knew they would turn me away and He knew it would fuel within me a desire to stand up and make a change. And He was right!
There are many factors that contributed to me eventually planting a church. Yet, I know without a doubt that God used this one experience to fan a flame within me.
You have a small flame burning in your soul too. I pray God will use whatever methods to fan that flame. May you discover a passion and a purpose that will drive you to be the person God desires for you to be! Wake up and rise from your recliner. The world needs you to make a change!