I Will Be With You
"Sometimes I think maybe I should be in ministry like my dad," Seth said. We were newly married, making one of our all-night drives from where we lived in Orange County,California, to visit his parents in Willamina, Oregon. If you've ever been on a drive like that, you know you can get into some deep conversations. The walls come down after several hours on the road in the dark.
Seth was still in college studying to be an art teacher. His dad had been a minister in Willamina for nearly 30 years. And as we drove along in the quiet, Seth confessed, "Sometimes I think maybe I should be in ministry like my dad." I knew it was a sacred moment. He was speaking aloud something God had planted in his heart. Truth be told, it made me a little nervous. Him being a pastor wasn't part of our plan. But I was careful in my response. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I remember warning myself not to speak anything negative about something that was clearly a tiny spark of calling.
We moved on in conversation, and in life, saving that spark for another time. For God's timing. Seth continued in pursuing his art degree, but in time we saw that God had other plans.
"We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Seth never did become an art teacher. He became the Minister of Family Life at Turner Christian Church. He was the youth pastor, worship leader, and family minister there for the last 14 years. I got to see him grow in tremendous ways, both through the joys and through the challenges of being in church ministry. We have been loved well by the church family in Turner. (Thank you, dear friends!)
But in the last few years, I've seen him grow hungry for more. Something new. We prayed and watched and wondered what God had next for us. I could see so much potential in Seth that was not able to be used where he was. I didn't write this with the purpose of bragging about my husband, but while I'm at it, I might as well just say I am so proud of him. He loves Jesus. He loves God's Word. He loves the church. And he loves people. He can pretty much talk to anyone. He's not judgmental and he makes everyone feel welcome. In my opinion, his greatest strengths are people skills and preaching. And I am so proud of him.
So this past summer, we strongly believed that God had plans for Seth to become the pastor at another church. We just didn't know which one and we didn't know when. We were considering three different churches in Oregon. Seth was interviewing, sometimes in person and sometimes via Skype. I worried about knowing which church home would be the best place for us. I prayed and prayed that God would make it abundantly clear which one He wanted us to go to.
And He did.
In Exodus 3, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush and tells him to go back into Egypt and tell Pharoah to let God's people go. When Moses questions himself, watch to see what God's response is.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Did you see what God said when Moses questioned his own capabilities? God simply replied, “I will be with you.” That statement carries so much meaning. It says that God is the One Who is capable to do whatever He intends to do. He cannot be thwarted. It also says He will not leave us alone in any assignment He calls us to. He will equip us, one day at a time. He will tell us which steps to take as the needs arise. It also means, “I am God, you are not, and you don’t need to know everything right now.”
The reason that Seth and I were able to know which church God wanted us to go to was because of the potential we saw in one particular body of believers. West Salem Christian Church. Both Seth’s and my hearts were captured by the possibility of what the LORD could do there. We didn’t know what God would do or how or when. But we had incredible peace that came from God’s promise: “I will be with you.”
So by faith, Seth told two other churches he was interviewing with, “No, thank you.” This was months before he would actually be offered the job at West Salem Christian Church. But God had given us certainty that this was the path He had for our family. So we waited for God’s timing, and we prayed for the church members in West Salem to also feel certain that God was calling Seth to be their next pastor. We prayed that they would invite us to come and join them, so that together we could follow Jesus and pursue His plans for the community of West Salem in this next season.
And they did.
We visited the church two Sundays in September so that we could meet the believers there and so that Seth could preach. It’s a small congregation. They aren’t fancy. But they are faithful. And I felt so much joy being there. It felt like home. As I looked around I felt this impressed upon me by God: “We are small but we are mighty.”
It made me think of Gideon’s army in Judges 6-8. God told Gideon he would defeat the powerful Midianite army, but then God intentionally whittled down Gideon’s army from 32,000 men to 300. God said His purpose for this was “In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength saved her…” (Judges 7:2) And that is how Seth and I both feel about this opportunity to go to West Salem and build the church there. I have heard Seth say it this way, “If anything is going to happen there it is going to have to be God that does it.”
At the end of September Seth was officially asked to be the pastor at West Salem Christian Church. We wholeheartedly agreed. Our first Sunday there will be right after Thanksgiving on November 25.
We don’t really know what we’re doing. What we do know is that God has told us to go. And God has said, “I will be with you.” We are surrendering our lives to an invisible God Who works in visible ways, and we are filled with expectation! I am so excited to join the congregation there, to pray together for God’s next steps. God has given Seth and me our own gifts and our own experiences that He can use in this new ministry, but the plan is His.We trust that He will guide us and speak to us and help us obey Him one day at a time.
This summer I noticed that in the Bible, God often gave someone a new name when God was leading him/her into a new season with a new identity. Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Jacob became Israel (Genesis 32:28), and Saul became Paul (Acts 13:9). On July 3 of this year I wrote in my journal, “I asked God what my new name should be to honor the next season of my life, and I thought, ’Courageous One.’”
But how could I possibly be courageous when there are so many UNKNOWNS in the coming days, weeks, months and years?? I am courageous simply because God says, “I am with you.”