Seminary was over. When I landed in London, I called the senior pastor to whom I had been assigned.
“Pastor Vine, we have arrived in England and will join you shortly. Is that all right?”
“Oh, landed in England, have you? Jolly good.”
“Yes, Pastor. We intend to spend the weekend at my dad’s in London and will come up to Leeds on Monday. Will that be OK?”
“Oh, coming up to Leeds, are you? Jolly good.”
Pastor Vine’s tone, though cheery, was slightly discomforting. His next words confirmed my fears: “Any particular reason?”
Spring ministry (for many pastors, ages 20–35) often begins with fuzziness about your assignment and sometimes ambivalence about your presence, but for the most part, spring ministry is about promise. It says with the apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).1 It says with the prophet Joshua, “Give me this mountain” (Josh. 14:12). It says with the Reformer John Knox, “Give me Scotland, or I die.” Spring ministry means being faithfully creative and fearlessly innovative because, especially in a postpandemic world, spring ministry is what the church and the world need.
Although some will label them brash and others naive, make no mistake about it, we need the passion and optimism that spring pastors bring. Preaching professor Brett Younger declared, “The church does not need any more reasonable ministers. We need ministers who will set their own hair on fire for what is right. The church has more than enough predictable, conventional, cookie-cutter ministers. We need ardent, zealous, fervent, fiery, incensed, inflamed, enraged, obsessive, impassioned, hot-blooded, and fanatical ministers.”2 Sounds like James and John to me.
The seasons of ministry concern themselves with your calling as a pastor, whether single, married, or single again. The wise man said, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). Each season is a two-sided coin with mountains on one side and valleys on the other. There is a certain inevitability about the seasons, a certain naturalness. Family specialist Dennis Rainey says, “Much like the inevitable seasons of nature, our lives on earth advance in a predictable pattern.”3 While in some places, spring and autumn are fleeting or unknown, in others, summer follows spring, autumn follows summer, winter follows autumn, and spring follows winter. But while birds know what season to migrate, animals know what season to hibernate, and sea creatures know what season to procreate, we stand bewildered when it comes to knowing what is around the corner.
Some begin ministry in frustration because some pieces are not in place. But Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”4 Begin your spring ministry the way you want your winter ministry to end. That means incarnating yourself into the needs of others, not preoccupying yourself with your own needs. It means learning to appreciate the number-two position, not yearning to appropriate number one. It means getting used to ambiguity, not incessantly demanding clarity. Ministry is not about black and white; it’s about learning to live in the gray.
“It has not yet been revealed what we shall be” (1 John 3:2). Yet to this uncertain predicament, the Bible gives a prescriptive response: “For he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). How do you see Him who is invisible? Spend time at the altar of prayer. Choose a time, find a place, and tell Jesus, “I will meet you there morning and evening.” Get into the habit in the spring, and watch the Author and the Finisher of our faith pilot you through the seasons that follow.
This journey called ministry is not for the fainthearted. It is for those who will commit to enduring until the end. Do not pout for a season that is past or pine for a season that is future. The internship is not your ministry life; it is a season in your ministry life. This, too, shall pass. Your task, your assignment, your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to bring forth fruit in the season you are in (Ps. 1:3).
We made it to Leeds. Pastor Robert and Vivian Vine housed us with their four wonderful children—for a whole month. The church district was also very kind to us. Spring ministry embraces your first pastoral assignment, where you are raring to go. Whether single, newlywed, or with child or children in tow, go forth to conquer the world for Christ—even if not everybody has received the memo.
- Scripture is from the New King James Version.
- Brett Younger, “Calorie Counting Ministers in a Starving World: Amos 5:14-24,” Review and Expositor 110, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 299.
- Dennis Rainey, Ministering to Twenty-First Century Families: Eight Big Ideas for Church Leaders (Nashville, TN: W. Pub., 2001), loc. 1659, Kindle.
- Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic (New York, NY: Free Press, 2004), 95.