Stuck in the Sticks?

Contemplating a call.

Orley M. Berg is an executive editor of Ministry.

AN ANONYMOUS writer is puzzled about a call he received to a larger church within the conference, which he accepted but then was talked into declining by the conference president "because the members of the small church did not want me to move so soon." He asks, "If the Lord had called me through the conference committee, was God now changing His mind?" The man is still in the small church. The people are lovely and the Lord is blessing with souls. Yet he has been there now for several years and there is no indication of another call to any church nearly as large as the one he once was talked out of serving. He suggests that a few words concerning the question of calls appear in The Ministry.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain." This is especially true of the minister. Of all people, he should understand the peace that one can enjoy, fully trusting that Jesus will bless him where he is and that the future is in His hands.

To have such contentment is not always easy. It may appear that other ministers, no more qualified than he, get all the breaks. When "better" or "bigger" churches open up, he is passed by. After years in a small church, in a reasonably successful ministry, he is sent to another small one. Or it may be that he always ends up with the "problem" churches.

What is such a minister to do? He is conscientious, earnest, dedicated. He knows within his heart that he has been called to the ministry. Still he feels that the conference president or his committee hasn't given him a fair opportunity to progress in the work. How is he to relate to such situations? Perhaps the following suggestions will be helpful.

Do Your Best Where You Are

Wherever one finds himself, regardless of the circumstances, whether it be a "small" church, a "problem" church, or any other kind of church, he must first of all make up his mind that regardless of the circumstances he will do his very best where he is. And there is not a place on this earth, except where people do not exist, where any dedicated minister cannot find plenty of useful work to do.

Instead of lingering on what might have been, or being overly concerned about the breaks that might come in the future, deter mine that under God and through His marvelous grace you will do your best where you are, believing that God is fully aware of the circumstances and that He under stands. After all, the relationship between the minister and His God is paramount. Even conference committees may make mistakes, but God can overrule for good. There need be no barren or wasted years in the ministry.

Things Can Change

Believe fully that regardless of how bad or seemingly hopeless the present situation may appear, miracles do happen and things can change. We are not to judge the future by the past. No matter what a checkered history the church may have, even though it may have the reputation of being the most difficult or frustrating church in the conference to handle, it can change. Just as God loves to take deep sinners and reveal His power to change their lives into saints, so He also delights to take congregations that have been torn apart by bitterness and strife, and bring them together into a fellowship of love.

For a pastor to be the humble instrument through which such miracles can be accomplished is a thrilling experience. So never, never look upon any situation as hopeless. Filled with hope and optimism, your best years may be in the very spot that seems least promising. It's far more re warding to enter a challenging situation and see remarkable changes than to enter a flourishing situation and merely maintain the status quo.

Keep Looking to Jesus

Keep looking to Jesus and the cross. To look to circumstances can easily bring on discouragement and even doubts as to one's call to the ministry. Far better to follow the example of Paul. "If ever his ardor in the path of duty flagged, one glance at the cross and the amazing love there revealed, was enough to cause him to gird up the loins of his mind and press forward in the path of self-denial." —The Acts of the Apostles, p. 246. "Amidst the constant storm of opposition, the clamor of enemies, and the desertion of friends the intrepid apostle almost lost heart. But he looked back to Calvary and with new ardor pressed on to spread the knowledge of the Crucified."— Ibid., p. 297.

Consider John the Baptist. If ever one had reason to feel he had been overlooked and unappreciated, it was he. For some thirty years he prepared for his special work. Then he preached for only a few brief months and was put in prison. Then he was denied the privilege given the disciples of being associated with the Messiah for whom he had waited so long. Instead, he languished in prison, seemingly forgotten, for perhaps two years or so, while Christ and the favored ones were carrying on their mighty deeds. Then, instead of a miraculous deliverance such as that which later came to Peter and Paul, he was beheaded. How seemingly unfair! Yet, in God's book John got top rating, and his example has served to encourage countless numbers who have had to suffer injustice and even martyrdom for their Lord.

The Divine Assurance

Finally, keep in mind that what may appear as an injustice or mistake on the part of the conference president may in fact have been the best they could do under the circumstances and what the Lord intended. But whether right or wrong, this is not a matter to worry over or become troubled about. A sense of loyalty will lead you to accept the decision and be faithful to your assigned task. After all, what better assurance could you have than the promise of Romans 8:28.

Regardless of where you are, your one passion should be to win souls and nurture them for the kingdom of God. If you are seeing souls saved and built up in the holy faith you can know that you are in line with the divine call. Ellen White declares, "The con version of sinners and their sanctification through the truth is the strongest proof a minister can have that God has called him to the ministry." —Ibid., p. 328. Wherever you are there will be souls to save and make ready for the coming of the Lord. As long as this is one's passion, there will be no room in the heart for discontent. As for the future? You are too busy today doing the Lord's work to worry about tomorrow. The Lord will look after that.

O. M. B.


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Orley M. Berg is an executive editor of Ministry.

January 1975

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