I have been relatively quiet with personal comments upon my life in recent days and it’s not because nothing has happened. To the contrary, there have been a few things going on but I decided not to mention them until the picture cleared up. That all took place during the past week so here goes what has been going on in our lives.
Our marriage took place on January 25 and the next day, as we were traveling to our honeymoon destination, I received a phone call informing me that I had been called to serve as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Holiday Island Arkansas. I knew about the church as they had interviewed me a few weeks before but I thought nothing would develop from this. But I was wrong!
For those of you not aware of how pastors receive calls in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a congregation without a pastor can call any other pastor of the LC-MS for their position. There are no restrictions but our process involves a lot of trust in God as not much is known about the pastor or even the congregation (depending upon your point of view). We believe a call is given by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Lord is working intimately with both the calling congregation and the pastor receiving the call.
Grace, Holiday Island is a smaller sized church in a planned retirement community in northern Arkansas. The closest town is Eureka Springs and Branson MO is about an hour northeast and Bentonville AR (the corporate headquarters of Walmart) is 45 minutes to the west. There are about 2500 residents and the majority are retired.
This presents a different demographic for Grace congregation. Almost everyone is retirement age and that means the type of ministry is unique for them from other churches. With only one child in their Sunday School, youth ministry is not a high priority.
Members come from other parts of the country–very few members are native Arkansans. What this also means is that the members are also transient in that they usually come for a few years but will go back to their families when health issues crop up or the death of a spouse changes the family structure.
This congregation presents some special challenges for a pastor. But the members are also very aware of their situation and want to have a positive impact upon their community. They are quite active in both inreach and outreach activities. They don’t just sit around waiting for things to happen–they work hard to make them happen.
Anyway, the day after our wedding I receive their call to serve them. What that means for me is that I have two calls to consider: the first to my congregation in Ringwood and the second to the congregation in Holiday Island. This is where, for the pastor, a strong relationship with his Lord is very beneficial.
The pastor attempts to discern where the Lord wants him to serve. There are positives and negatives about every church in this country (there is no perfect church!) and I asked the Lord to show me His will in this situation.
How is that accomplished? I believe God uses His Word, the Bible, as one way to communicate to His people so reading the Bible regularly is a must. I also know the Lord wants me to be in regular communication with Him through prayer and He will speak to me in this way. Plus the Lord has set mature Christians in my life to help me look at something like a call to another church to see where I can best serve my Lord. This process will work in every challenge in a believer’s life–to seek God’s direction for everything.
And so I began to consider this call plus take a good look at my ministry in New Jersey. There are things I have done well and some things where I have been lacking as a pastor. The same can be said for every circumstance in our lives. That’s why we ask God for His assistance to see where He wants us and what He wants us to do.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I flew down to Arkansas to meet with the congregation. It’s a fair thing to do which allows one to “get a feel” for the ministry of the church and begin to see the needs of the community. It was helpful for us to do this. I also met with leaders of my congregation in Ringwood for a frank discussion about my ministry to hear their perspective on the strengths and areas of growth for me as their pastor.
All of these things worked together to allow me to see what God wanted me to do. This past Sunday, I announced to both congregations that I had accepted the call to Holiday Island and would be leaving Ringwood. There is no way to make this an easy announcement as there are always some people with whom you have developed a close relationship who won’t quite understand that you’re not abandoning them but simply trying to do God’s will.
Due to some circumstances we won’t be leaving Christ the King until the first of June but we will be moving to Arkansas. Some have asked us about my wife moving twice–she is still unpacking boxes from her move to New Jersey–and all we can say is our Lord has been very gracious to us and He will be with us as we pack up and head to Holiday Island.
So for family and friends who follow my blog this is a news to you. For the others from around the world who read what I post, may this be a moment for you to consider how God can help you make any decision, big or small, every day. Trust in Him and He will never lead you astray.