God's will - a way out?
November 7, 2007
When is it time for me as a leader to pick up from where I am and go to the next place? This question crosses the minds of pastors on many Monday mornings.
One day I asked this of my wise father. He said, "You will just know." Well, after sixteen years with Youth for Christ, I didn't. Although in the end I chose to leave, had I left a year earlier I'd have been seen as more of a hero. The fact is the leadership team was relieved to see me go.
So why did I fail to know? That's an important question, but for another day.
What I think precedes is knowing how to discern IF I need to leave these people, this organization/business, this calling, this city/town/or country.
I was raised in a church family that expected ministers to leave at least every five years. A cynical rationale was that they only had a five-year menu of sermons.
In my grouping—those of us working in not-for-profits—, we are both blessed and cursed by "find God's will" conversations and prayers. Blessed because it is powerful to believe and know that the Lord is leading; and cursed because it can become an excuse to get out of an unhappy, failing or boring situation. Or even worse, a way to rationalize, in the winter time, going from "Saskatchewan" to "British Columbia." (I can say that because Saskatchewan is my home province and I can't really see why people fuss about wanting to live in BC.)
As a leader, how do you work through those "Monday mornings" when you wonder, "Is this the time to move on?"
Here is how I've learned to handle it. And like you, these lessons are learned by trial and error.
My first experience—with YFC—taught me not to ignore signs of boredom. Passion is so high on my vocational graph that if I'm not motivated, I become less than useful and potentially dangerous. Watch out for boredom.
My second experience was after twelve years with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada: In reading my earlier journal entries, I see signs of boredom. I so loved my work that other options were quickly discounted. Job satisfaction was the dominant player.
Only when Tyndale—now named—ran into trouble did it grab my attention. As Lily and I searched for His leading, from her words and analysis, I heard His voice saying, in effect, "As a builder, you've gone far enough with EFC, now I have another rebuilding job."
Goodness, did I ever need that message etched on my mind for later.
The coming years were grueling, lined with months of early morning nausea over fears of failure, deep job dissatisfaction, loss of identity, assault of ego, and a world in which I had no previous experience.
In my mind, I wrote many "Monday morning" resignation letters—some weeks, they were daily.
The unrelenting question during those moments was, "Is the rebuilding job you were called to—that afternoon in March 1996 when you and Lily were driving Alligator Alley in Florida—finished?"
That was the one hinge I couldn't unscrew. So I hung on.
That was the cure I needed—to hang on. Life is tough. Leadership is sometimes overwhelming. The very thought of sitting in another seat, collecting bi-weekly pay stubs, and letting someone else worry and anguish over impossible budgets and unhappy staff was appealing.
Leaving would have been so wrong. But thinking of it felt so good. So how do I know the difference? I don't, any more than my father could tell me how I would know.
But I can offer you this: His Spirit makes me—"Brian, the servant of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1)—know that my callings are within His mind and plans. I've learned that His tutoring happens in the dilemma of wondering when to leave, where to go and what to do. Being His servant includes learning to follow when not knowing.
Dear Lord, Master and King. Sometimes I feel so juvenile as I review my fumbling attempts to find Your calling. I know inner self-interests can translate my wants for Your calling. How less than ideal or good those translations can become—written in the language of self-concerned instinct and attempts for self-aggrandizement. And yet You call. You lead. You equip. You empower. So in this moment of searching, give me boldness to press on, humility in self-awareness and silence to listen. In Your good and holy will. Amen.
I need discernment when looking for a new place of ministry or vocation. For in my search, the need may not be so much a call for a geographical cure as much as a call for a cure of a different sort.