I recently resigned.

In my congregation the terms of the call give 90 days for notice. The trial sermon isn’t for a month. That isn’t what made me resign. I won’t officially know if I have a ‘call’ for weeks. No, I gave my resignation because soon there would be too many opportunities for people to hear the news from someone other than me. It’s not so funny how word travels.

A colleague once was a candidate here in Pennsylvania while serving in Colorado. Before the trial sermon, the sexton in Colorado asked him when the date was. The more people know, the more people know, and it isn’t good for folks to hear it from the grape vine.

Another reason to resign in advance is that even if you are not elected at that other church people will be hurt and that pain cannot be easily repaired. Believe me on this one. More importantly, so much of pastoral ministry is built upon trust, and (in our system at least) the search and call process makes you feel like you’ve been stepping out on your spouse. The spouse feels that way too. So I simply chose to resign, trusting God that even if not elected, something will materialize and I’ll have some work.

The last reason to resign now is that if this is really about discernment of how God calling is you (which I’ve tried to focus upon) then once you have a sense of movement or call to change, then change it shall be. (Unless, of course, your name is Jonah and you know how that worked out.) Another colleague went so far as resigning before he even finished his profile because of his sense of call! In that case, I guess the call was directive but not specific. Maybe it was something like, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) Oh, come on, don’t flatter yourself. You’re no Abraham.

imagesI am quite sure that my leaving will not be widely understood. The congregation I leave is full of great folk who I truly like. Unfortunately, for me, I do not think that ministry is about being liked (although ministry is not making people dislike you), it is about leading a congregation into what God is calling them to become. Ministry is, in this way, not unlike our own individual spiritual journey where we try to grow into the people God is calling us to be. People may not understand when you say that you hear God calling you to different challenges.

I am fortunate to even be involved in this activity called discernment. In a world, in an economy, where a sense of vocation may well be a luxury; it may be easier to just say that I am just looking for a ‘better job.’ But that would not be any truer than some of the half-truths that we’re forced to tell during our search process. It would be closer to the truth to say that I need different challenges. Not better, just different challenges. Maybe people would be comfortable with that. Maybe I am more comfortable with these cognitive, economic, pragmatic motivations.

But I know different. I know that the same relentless Spirit that has called and compelled other disciples before me is disturbing me. I pray that my prayerful reading of this urging is correct. I believe I am called to serve in that place and feel content with the decision. Now I hope and pray that the folk who will be voting in a month listen to the Spirit also…and if necessary, have the courage to vote no.

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