The journey to beginning my new role as a lead pastor resident is already proving to be one that is going to be mentally challenging, culturally stimulating, and spiritually rewarding as I seek to lay down my life to make much of Jesus.
Just a short while ago, after planting a church, buying a home, and living in an incredible community, it appeared as though things were settling down for me and my family of four.
But then God impressed it on my heart that my work as the lead and preaching pastor of that church was done, and moreover that our few-hundred-member church, staff, and resources should be handed over to another leader so that I could be freed up to serve Jesus in newer capacities.
This did not feel convenient. Packing up and heading from Georgia to Seattle to brave the cold Pacific Northwest wasn’t how I envisioned I’d be spending the winter.
I’m being challenged both internally and externally, asking myself these questions:
- What about my gifts?
- Am I really ready for this?
What about my gifts?
For the last 12 years, I’ve put some significant time into being trained. In the last three and a half years, my routine has been to be in front leading, preaching, teaching, casting vision, and so forth. The last few years, I’ve poured myself out in training others. When I accepted the fall to the residency program, I got some pushback from folks, who told me I was squandering the preaching gift God gave me. But I don’t think those folks are really listening to the last three words of that sentence: “. . . God gave me.”
The call, the gifting, and the platform all belong to God, not the man. It’s God who gives good gifts (James 1:17), and it’s our responsibility as disciples who love Jesus to steward all that God brings us—from our dollars, to our time, to our relationships, to our careers—our whole existence is to be leveraged for Jesus’ glory (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). Talking with a pastor the other day, I said, “I’ve got the jersey and a helmet, just put me on the field. I don’t care if you want me to play quarterback, running back, receiver, or on special teams or kick. All I know is I just want to play hard and put some big points on the scoreboard.”
I’m not even close to being a jock but that was the only analogy that hit me at the time.
I want to be a team player, and that means that I have to be OK with wherever I believe God wants me, regardless of how I or others think he should be using my (his!) gifts.
Besides, if it’s Jesus’ kingdom and he’s in charge, he’ll make sure that his gifts aren’t wasted.
Am I really ready for this?
I’m also asked (and sometimes find myself asking the same question), am I really ready for this big of a change? And the answer is no. I know that Jesus loves me (Gal. 2:20), the Holy Spirit indwells me (Rom. 8:11), and God’s Word instructs and guides me (2 Tim. 3.16–17), but at the end of the day, faith is still faith. And to be honest, I’ve never really been ready to do anything significant in my life.
I wasn’t “ready” to go to college.
I wasn’t “ready” to get married.
I wasn’t “ready” to continue in any of the other schools I’ve been to.
I wasn’t “ready” to have children.
I wasn’t “ready” to plant a church.
You get the point.
If I wait until I feel totally ready to do something, odds are I’ll never do it. So I step out in faith, trusting Jesus’ testimony both in Scripture and what I’ve seen him do in my own life, and proceed forward.
Alex Early is a lead pastor resident at the Ballard church.