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Home > 2013 > February Online Only > Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Part One)

Knowing when to stay

When I came to the end of my seminary education, several people encouraged me to take on the role of senior pastor at one of several churches recruiting at the seminary. But two things held me back. First, I didn't want to approach ministry like one who climbs a corporate ladder. The conventional thinking was to leap for the highest rung possible on your first post after seminary and then start climbing from there. Second, I knew in my heart I wasn't ready. I needed to learn the mechanics of church ministry. So, after graduation, I remained in Dallas and joined Grace Bible Church's full-time staff as Dr. Dwight Pentecost's assistant pastor.

About a year or so after working with Dr. Pentecost full-time, I began to feel more confident about leading a church, so I entertained the possibility of going elsewhere. A church in Fort Worth asked me to consider being a pastor there. My wife, Cynthia, and I visited the church and met with the elders. I preached the morning and evening services and we felt right at home; the people were wonderful and the church culture was very familiar to us. We felt unusually comfortable.

After a short time, they called and said, "We'd like you to consider our church voting on a call. Would you like to take this next step?" I agreed. The following Sunday, the church voted. If the vote was not unanimous, it was mighty close. So, from their perspective, I belonged in Fort Worth, serving that church as senior pastor; nothing could have been more obvious to them.

I was excited. Cynthia was excited. I shared the outcome with Dr. Pentecost and he congratulated me. But our initial excitement gave way to a pensive, somber mood, which confused me. We should have been brimming with enthusiasm about our new future and eager to explore the wonderful opportunities for ministry that lay before us. The church was filled with excitement—why weren't we?

Finally, I confessed to Cynthia, "I can't do it." I had been presumptuous. I had pushed my plans through, but I had failed to make it a focus of my prayers.

Immediately after I communicated my change of plans to the elder of the church in Fort Worth and to Dr. Pentecost, I felt instant relief. While nothing specific made the move "wrong," and while I could point to nothing specific that made my staying at Grace Bible Church "right," I could not ignore my gut. That night, I slept like a newborn baby.

I tell you about this period of my history and that embarrassing episode to underscore a couple of thoughts.

1. Ignore selfish ambition.

First, ambition is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should never serve oneself. In fact, it should be kept low on the list of priorities when deciding where to stay and when to go. Don't let ambition cloud your judgment and rob you of the opportunity to gain valuable life experience where you are. You might feel limited in your current position, like your talents are going to waste or you could be accomplishing so much more if only given a broader opportunity elsewhere. Those negative feelings are proof positive that you're growing. Your frustration, however, is not good enough reason to go elsewhere. Not by itself, anyway.

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Related Topics:ChangeDecision MakingDiscernmentFuturePlanning
Posted: February 25, 2013

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richard morehouse

March 04, 2013  7:42pm

Al, I tend to agree with your viewpoint. I am in a personal situation right now in my prayers and conviction to our Savior to continue His will within ministry. My heart is strong with this spiritual journey. Though emotions do play a role, I believe we (I) do need to take into consideration, the Context on what Jesus has done for us and to be able to disciple the message ongoing; not from my viewpoint but from His... Giving my life through Baptism... as this is already happended, I need to think and apply this everyday. Pray for my wrong doings and begin a new life for the day and for someone... Knowing that the devil is just around the corner, it will take all of the obedience and dropping to my knees for guidance. My mind is buzzing on missions, urban ministry, gloabl ministry, and reaching a hand out to pull someone in. In today's world, it takes a person like me to "step out of the box" and be somewhat "exiled" to continue to deliver the message.

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Al Negron

February 27, 2013  11:00am

I deeply respect Pastor Swindoll, and have enjoyed his wisdom for decades. However, this process seems based on emotions/feelings, not scripture. I have always had difficulty with discerning God's will, and no matter if the results are good or bad, I never really KNOW. Does anyone out there know what I mean? I have always felt like my feelings are broken, and not a good barometer for decision-making. I know some of the Word, I pray some, but nothing helps me feel like I am 100% in God's will. It also disturbs me that many are deciding God's will on an emotionally basis. Should we be doing that? What about "the heart is desperately wicked above all things - who can know it"? I wish I could resolve this issue for myself, but I will probably struggle with this 'til I see my Lord.

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