So This Happened Over The Weekend…


dnj2015

“Everybody has a vocation to some form of life-work. However, behind that call (and deeper than any call), everybody has a vocation to be a person to be fully and deeply human in Christ Jesus.” (Brenann Mannning – The Wisdom of Tenderness)


I’ve been thinking about something for a while. Something that doesn’t revolve around me, but includes me. Something that should not promote me, but provide me with identity and purpose. Something that is bigger than me, but small enough to fit inside me. Something that concerns the future of others, but captures the present in my faith and work. I’ve been thinking about the call of God on my life and how that is going these days.

Being called by God is not always a vocational call or assignment. The scriptures teach and Christian tradition upholds that some are called to use their gifts/time/energy in particular ways as shepherds and teachers of the church. Additionally, other believers are gifted and called to be evangelists in the workplace – Starbucks, Wall Street, the home, the university, the community, the fields, the machine shop, the courtroom, and “to the uttermost.” Everyone is included in the second calling. All Christians are called to use their gifts/time/energy as active participants in the body of Christ: worshipping, serving, discipling, training, sharing, and investing in others as witness of the kingdom and as sign of faith in God. Some are given the first and more peculiar calling to make the most of not only being a part of the body of Christ, but to be a leader of and a collaborator with the body of Christ, filled by the Holy Spirit and fueled by the Great Commission. I’ve been thinking about that in particular. And about me. And about my calling. I’m in that first group, and I have been thinking about that…a lot.

As I have thought about that, I have realized that the very best memories I have in life are memories centered in church life. They are memories from a long time ago and memories from the past few months. They usually involve someone or some people doing something in or through the name of Jesus. Sometimes I remember preaching a good sermon that encouraged others or exuded the gospel. Other times I remember hearing someone testify to God being faithful and miraculous in their week. Occasionally, those very good memories are set in moments of tears and tight hugs as saints are buried, babies born, couples wed, faithful friends announce a move, or as life happens in unexpected and unexplainable ways. These memories are evidence to me of a life lived in Christ through the church in full and deep ways. Truthfully, my life has been impacted and shaped much more significantly by people and events inside the church than by people and events outside of it, including work, sports, casual friendships, and hobbies. I have been thinking a whole lot about those memories; and about the ones I hope to have in the future; and the ones my kids are picking up along the way.

So this is what I am thinking about what I have been thinking about. Is it time for me to change the way I am serving the church as a God-called leader? Is it time for me to step into something new God has prepared for me and my family? Is it time for me to find new memories to complement the ones I have from years past? Is it time for me to put God first in everything in my life, including my professional identity, goals, and success? Is it time for me to move beyond believing God has called me and towards trusting Him to clarify, keep, and perfect such a call? That’s what I am thinking about, and I am thinking about it a lot these days. The answer to all those questions seems to be “yes.”

With that answer in mind, I have been thinking/praying/wrestling with a specific call to a specific place and with a specific people. In this “memory waiting to happen,” the context is very clear and the cause is extremely compelling. It is with a congregation in Newark, Ohio, and they are thinking about church life, gospel ministry, precious memories, and pastoral calling in very similar ways that Jamie and I have been. They have even called us to become their new pastoral leaders, and we take that kind of invitation very seriously.

So, I am still thinking about all of those things as I think about me, and Newark Naz, and pastoral calling, and the future. I wonder even louder what God may be saying to me, and He says:

If not now, when?

If not you, who?

If not here, where?

If not this, what?

If not yes, why?

That is quite a list of direct questions and even more to think about. There is a lot at stake in this possibility. I am at mid-life and mid-career. I am established, respected, empowered, and at ease in Houston. Jamie is effective, counted on, graceful and beloved in her relationships and ministry. The kids are thriving, growing up, getting ready for “next” and making us smile everyday. Heck, Rainey has never even been out of Texas! Is this what I should be thinking right now? Is this really such a good idea? Would God really expect this kind of adjustment from me?

This isn’t exactly a great time to be a pastor. The church is in trouble. Culture is winning. The weight of leading spiritually is significant. Christianity in America is divided. Marriages are disintegrating and families are crumbling. Entertaining crowds is more relevant than encountering God. The Bible is doubted and discounted. Jesus has been domesticated by scholars and by students. Pastoring is not popular, not lucrative, not easy, not safe.  (Or so it seems to be popularly believed today.)

More thinking and wondering… and I find myself saying to God:

If not now, when?

If not me, who?

If not here, where?

If not this, what?

If not yes, why?

Sometimes we have to move from thinking and questioning to acting and doing. Now is that time. The Ballards will be moving from Texas after 14 years of ministry at Calvary and Clear Lake Churches of the Nazarene, as well as leadership in church relations and spiritual development at Arrow Child & Family Ministries. Each of those assignments have been rich and rewarding to us. Along the way we have been given and blessed much more than we have deserved or required. God has been faithful here, and He will prove faithful there, too. And we can’t wait to live through those memories that will be with us throughout the upcoming years. Newark Naz get ready.  Here come the Ballards.

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8 thoughts on “So This Happened Over The Weekend…

  1. Congrats my friend. Just a little sad because of working relationship. Thrilled that you are following God’s call on your life. He is Faithful as you are faithful.

  2. My husband and I are so glad that you are coming to Newark Naz. We hope and pray that with your experience with the Latino people and your support, that this may be the beginning of a Latino ministry in Newark, Ohio. We know God has a calling for us as well and we are eager to see if this will be the beginning for us. Welcome to Ohio!

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