Sorry for the Greek in the title, but up until about a month ago I was swimming in Greek for a few months so it’s fresh in my mind. A beginning is almost always exciting. It means that perhaps a new adventure or a new challenge has begun. There are often unknowns when we are in the beginning of something. We don’t really know what is next and we don’t know what the ending will necessarily look like. Symbolically, that’s where I am at with this blog. This is the first post or the beginning of the blog. I don’t completely know what’s next. I have some plans for it, but I don’t know what its end will look like. Simultaneously, I am at a bit of a beginning in my life. I have recently started in a new department and a new position at work. My wife and I are attending a new church, because I will be starting a pastoral internship there in December. All of these things happening mostly at the same time have created quite the beginning for us.
My wife and I have had other beginnings. Each of us coming to faith in Jesus and our first date were all within months of each other now nearly ten years ago. Those beginnings of both our walks with Christ and our walk with each other are things for which I am profoundly thankful. About two years later we celebrated before God the beginning of our marriage. Another two years later marked the beginning of my four years in seminary as I had surrendered to and confirmed God’s call on my life to serve Him in ministry. Fast forward four more years and we marked the beginning of our adventure as parents when our beautiful daughter was born. Our daughter was born just a year ago now and it is interesting to look back at these nearly ten years to see where God has brought us. It has been a fair amount of time since some of those beginnings. In some things, we are a decent way up the road from the starting line. Each season and chapter has brought new joys, growth, challenges, opportunities, hopes and dreams.
Looking back to the beginning of my call to ministry as I began seminary, the road that God has taken me down is far different than what I thought it would be. I finished seminary over a year ago and I continue to work in a “secular” job. I’ve done a short pastoral internship, served in an interim pastorate, led Bible studies, had several opportunities to preach, tried to share Christ in my context and tried to pray towards the future. They don’t tell you the struggle that seminary will be when you start. It was a sacrifice for me and equally for my wife. I worked full-time, went to school full-time and most of the time throughout those four years served in some type of ministry as well. To be completely honest there were seasons in seminary where my Bible reading and prayer life were not healthy. Bad habits or a lack of good habits do not beget good habits. Since the end of seminary I seem to be learning how to spirtually walk again as though seminary for me was some kind of spiritual stroke. I don’t want to cast a bad light on seminary in that it is this toxic enterprise, because I very much support seminary, felt that God called me to that and feel that God calls pastors to be trained. Oddly, I did experience considerable growth during seminary spiritually, but it seems that I struggled in forming some fundamental habits. Because of these potential pitfalls, it is important for those in seminary and pursuing seminary to be aware of this and prepare for it. (Read this). Nevertheless, here I am still learning how to assimilate back into life as a Christian, post-seminary.
Finishing seminary of course led to the question of, “well, now what?” That question has admittedly plagued me and I have progressed in the way that I approach that question. As seminary was beginning to draw to a close, I answered the question with, “I’m sick of this secular job, I want to be in full-time ministry.” As time passed, I prayed and circumstances hadn’t changed so I saw that God had another timeline in mind. I began to find more contentment (very slowly) in where God had me for the time being and accepted that God would move when He was ready and when He felt I was ready. Today, my answer to that question is a different one than I originally gave. God has put church planting on my heart and it hasn’t gone away for about 2 years now. After having done some initial research into my community and doing lots of reading and intake regarding planting, I am in a praying, waiting and learning stage. I am hoping that the aforementioned internship I am starting in December will help with discernment in that. The church where we are at now is a church plant that began 15 years ago so I feel like there is great wisdom there to be gleaned.
Something else that I have been praying through for even longer is the possibility of pursuing a PhD and teaching. I don’t feel that this wars against church planting, because I see the possibility that God may be calling me long-term to potentially be a pastor/professor type. Maybe not, but my heart really beats for the need for the church to reintroduce learning, study and academic pursuit to aid its mission. (*Spoiler alert*academics and the church is the topic of my next post). As I look at how I am wired and consider my passions there, that makes me feel that there may be something to that direction. Obviously, if the answer was that I am called to both, then one would have to come before the other. Whatever the result, I am hopeful that the discipline of slowing down and opening myself to the process of this internship will help provide some much needed discernment, clarity, oversight, accountability and guidance.
Like I said in the beginning, here we are at the beginning! This is the beginning of this blog and the beginning of a new chapter for my wife and I. If this is your first time reading any of my stuff, welcome! You may have come from my old blog as well, iamalivingstone.blogspot.com, where I hashed through some of the earlier days stuff. Welcome to you as well!
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).