Being obedient to where God wants to lead you in life can sometimes feel like the biggest mistake you’ve ever made. I’m sure it’s easier to just ignore Him. I should know, I tried to ignore God for many years and sometimes I wish I’d tried harder because I often want to get off the bus of obedience.
In the church where I serve as pastor we sing a song that many churches sing. The bridge that we repeat a few times says, Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me; take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Saviour. I hate singing those words, in fact a few weeks ago I just hummed along. I often want to get off the deeper bus.
Perhaps it’s because it’s winter; perhaps it’s because I’ve been in pastoral ministry for 15 years now and I’ve had to learn to balance optimism with scepticism. Or perhaps it’s because I have a hankering to actually drive the bus and be in control of its destination, but leadership in my context (a New Zealand Baptist) is sometimes just painfully, overrated.
In my years of pastoral ministry I’ve learnt to grow worryingly thick skin, and I’m the master of having to digest concrete pills to harden up when I’m accused of being too conservative, or too pentecostal, or not deep enough, or too deep, or not relevant enough, or too relevant, or not being missional enough, or being too missional.
The constant sense that consumerism is so real in today’s church gets under my skin as we see a line of people being ‘called’ to other churches, which of course is balanced by people being ‘called’ to our church. The church down the road celebrates a revival from God that is really just the result of having the coolest musicians right now – see my scepticism?
God, can I get off this bus? These words shape my morning prayer as I check my inbox for the latest revelation from someone about what God is doing, and that apparently I’ve missed it. Then there’s those for whom the church just doesn’t ‘do it’ anymore, and those who believe we don’t allow the Holy Spirit in (privately I wish I had the ability to be able to dictate where the Holy Spirit goes).
So what keeps me on the bus? Why don’t I just get off and allow the hipsters with beards and tattoo’s to take the lead? See, scepticism again! And what encouragement can I provide to some of you who are in training, or who are new to this journey of pastoral leadership?
The Word of God
In our geographical area there are a fleet of new double-decker buses for our public transport. Sometimes when I’m behind them I can see the compartment that contains their large engines and powerful air-conditioning units. On my journey in pastoral leadership I have to rely on the Word of God that drives me and gives me the power that I need to hang in there.
I’m held in my role because I can’t get away from my exegesis over many years that the local church really is the hope of the world. There is just too much evidence that the church is the Body of Christ, the themes throughout the New Testament can’t be ignored, even though I want to.
I can’t get away from being blinded by all the one-another’s that litter the New Testament; letters written to people like me trying to get along with a bunch of different people who don’t all share the same views. Knowing that these letters were written to the early church shows they weren’t perfect people, not even in Acts 2.
I can’t get away from the small still voice that keeps nagging away at me that this is the place where God would have me serve, that this is my calling, and that the positives far outweigh the negatives.
And I can’t get away from the knowledge that in a world that promises so much and yet delivers to little, that Jesus really is the answer for the world today and that without Him there’s no other, because Jesus is the way.
I want to be a part of the answer, so I end up praying that the Spirit will lead me to places where my trust is without borders; to places where I can walk on the waters wherever the Spirit calls me, that I’ll go deeper and that my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Saviour. Maybe I’ll sing this song next time, and not just hum it.
So, I’m staying on the bus … for now.
Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, a church that was planted 65-years ago and comprises people of all generations seeking to reach a community that consists of people of all generations. The tagline of Windsor Park is ‘doing life and faith, together.’ Grant can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.