Well, as Thanksgiving came and went, I knew it was time to make a decision. Acutally, by the time my family gathered for Thanksgiving, I had mostly made up my mind that I would be staying. How did I decide? That is a very good question.
I spoke with a brother pastor of mine from Buffalo who was familar with the congregation, and he was very encouraging. I also had a chance to speak with the bishop, who was able to give me more information on the congregation’s history and potential future. It was very good to know that they were praying for me, too.
In the end, though, the main reason I stayed was family driven. That may shock some who read this. But if some of the qualifications for someone aspiring to the office of overseer include being a husband and father (2 Timothy 3), then it’s a very important factor. My in-laws had moved to our area within the last year, one of my daughters still lives in town and the other just a few hours away. Having experienced some dificult estrangement from family in the past, those relationships are just too precious to try and maintain at a distance at this time in our lives.
When I announced my decision to the congregation on Sunday, December 1, most were very happy. I did emphasize to them that the process had taught me much about myself and the work I needed to do here. My greatest fear is that everyone would breathe a sigh of relief and everything would return to the way it was before. I assured them this would not happen. They applauded, but I am not sure they completely understand what I meant.
I learned a lot about myself and the church over that month. I learned that their primary attraction to the church was me, not God. I suppose this is unavoidable in churches. But as I reminded them, I am neither immortal nor ageless. One day, either by call, retirement, disability or death, I will not be in the pulpit. A deeper connection with God is definitely needed by many if not all the members. It will be easier to say “No” to certain things as say yes to other tasks that first deepen my faith, and then strenghthen discipleship in the congregation.
As I reflect on the process and the things I’ve written, it ironically seems like the divine call is a very human thing. But that makes sense. Jesus was human not just divine, right?