I am a pastor – a minister of the Gospel. It’s what I’ve wanted to be ever since the early 90’s when God really became the center of “my everything”. It’s okay to want it. After all, Paul says the following: “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” (1 Tim. 3:1, NASB95)
I am not alone in my heart-enflamed passion to shepherd in the local church. Nope, I have lots of friends whose hearts also beat with the same zeal. But over the years I have had many a conversation or have observed as my friends have made transitions in ministry locations. Sometimes the experiences leading up to these changes were quite difficult, and, at other times, it was simply the leading of the Lord. And so, for the benefit of those serving in ministry, and hopefully others as well, I offer the following things to consider from God’s Word:
Three Pauline Examples of Decisions Regarding Ministry Context
1. The Holy Spirit forbidding Paul to go where he first desired and redirecting him to other places of service.
“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:6–10, ESV)
Application question: Is it okay to, like Paul, not be passive in our approach to seeking ministry opportunities in new locations; yet, understand that God may shut down those opportunities and re-direct us to His specific will?
2. Paul staying in an effective ministry context even though it is excruciating to do so due to opposition to the message and the threat of physical safety (2 Cor.1:8-9).
“But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Cor. 16:8-9, ESV)
Application question: Is it possible that God wants us to stay in a situation detrimental to us but beneficial for His purposes in the advancement of the Kingdom?
3. Paul moving on from a place that had an open door for gospel ministry – simply because he was not at rest in his spirit due to missing his ministry co-laborer Titus.
“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.” (2 Cor. 2:12–13, ESV)
Application question: Is it okay sometimes to say no to a ministry opportunity simply because it doesn’t “feel right?”
May God give us wisdom, all of us, whether in ministry “officially” or not, as we make decisions regarding where and how He’d have us serve Him. And may we seek to be faithful until we hear the call to “come home” whether in death or by signal of heavenly trumpet blast.