What if I told you that 10 years from now, your life would be exactly the same? I doubt you'd be happy. So, why are you so afraid of change?--Karen Salmansohn
It was about this time in 2013 I got the call from my district superintendent. All United Methodist pastors know about this call. It usually means the Bishop and Cabinet have been deliberating about where a pastor’s gifts and graces can be best used for the Kingdom of God. Now, as you may expect, some pastors believe they can make better decisions than the Bishop and Cabinet. But, we as ordained servants of the United Methodist Church, put our hands in the air and solemnly promise to serve the local church as the Bishop and Cabinet see fit. There is always room for input from pastors since other personal circumstances may be at work the Bishop and Cabinet know nothing about.
January 2013, I got the call.
I had some inkling that my tenure at Grace was coming to a close. I had served ten years. The parish was in great financial shape. We were looking to expand to a second site. Ministry was empowered by the Holy Spirt and mobilized hundreds of volunteers. I had my own radio show that aired Sunday mornings. We advertised positive messages via the radio waves during the weekday drive time and during the long nights of the weekend. I was the pastor to the community and loved playing an influential part in the local community’s cast of characters. David Murrow even made a film about our local church and its influence with getting men back into church.
I day-dreamed about which churches I thought I could serve next. I made several selections. I even let my District Superintendent know my selections and my rationale as to why I was best suited to continue the great work at that parish. Wheatland was not on my A-list. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t on the B-list. It wasn’t even on my list. I never would’ve picked it. But, the Bishop and Cabinet did.
Announcements were made. God did amazing work behind the scenes. Bill and I went through the agonizing process of emigrating from a community we loved. We purchased a home and began to learn the culture of a whole new region. Bill got a job right away. I began the transition to become senior pastor at Wheatland. We both went through our own personal gauntlet of relocation.
At our Annual Conference meeting in June, a colleague from a neighboring community inquired, “So,what’s it like being the Senior Pastor of Wheatland?” I thought for a moment and replied, “Obedient.”
There really isn’t a lot of support for pastors asked to serve such a unique challenge. I checked. I did the research. I joined a group of solid Christian business leaders. I knew exactly what was going through some of my colleagues’ minds. Their condescending comments, sideway glances and personal jabs at my gender, age and inability to lead Wheatland with all it’s ‘challenges’ confirmed my speculation—this was going to be ‘me and God.’ And that was exactly what God wanted. I was pruned, right down to the soil line. Anything above that line was not existent. But, my roots grew deep and rich and strong.
Negativity was a constant companion. I was certainly swimming in it. I learned long ago to stay focused on God, even during the most excruciating components. I was tempted to dive into negativity’s unrelenting waves and I did on a number of occasions. I fought hard not to get overwhelmed and lost the battle. My feelings of hopelessness and unworthiness were compounded by a sea of situations and circumstances beyond my control. Apathy soaked into my soul. I welcomed apathy and finally surrendered. In-truth, I began to believe that maybe all the nay-sayers were correct. I wasn’t what Wheatland needed.
But, then there was God. He spoke to the waves and they were stilled.
It was just recently that I began to thank God for the process of becoming a better servant. I think Matthew and I may have shared some similar experiences. This weekend we read the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard he in included in Chapter 20:1-16. God isn’t interested in creating fair, just or equitable servants. God is most interested in making us holy. Negativity will not only steal, kill and destroy us. Apathy keeps us from being effective for the Kingdom of God. Negativity and apathy's effects influence those around us for generations. Consider what's planted and the fruit in your life. Have you been pruned? Are you in the process of becoming a servant? You may find out what’s really going on as we discover the scriptures together Sunday. See you there.
But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' Matthew 20:13-15 NIV