How do you know when God is stirring your heart for a change in ministry assignment?
I work with pastors every week who are asking this question. I previously posted my answer to this question, but after several conversations recently I thought it was time for a revision to strengthen some of the points based on what I’m currently learning and observing. This can be one of the most grueling decisions a Christian leader makes. Because most of us feel we are in positions God has called us to do, it is often more difficult to leave one called position for another called position.
Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. In sharing my experience, I am hoping it can help others process through what God may be doing in their life. Please realize that God uses unequaled experiences in each of our lives, but at the same time there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.
Here are 5 steps I have experienced as God has led me to something new:
Wonderful sweet success – Each time the door of a new opportunity opened it began opening (looking back) when things were going well in my current ministry.
Inner struggle – I usually have not been able to understand what God is up to, but there is something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I know God is doing something new. It could be a growing dissatisfaction, consistent unexplained frustrations, or just an uneasiness where I am currently. While I do not know what it is, and often not even if it involves a change in my place of ministry, I know God is working something new in my heart.
Closeness to Christ – Brennan Manning calls it a Dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment I will be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually am just enjoying the closeness to Christ not expecting anything.
Opportunity presents itself – An opportunity seems to come from nowhere. In some seasons there has been multiple opportunities at the same time. Reflecting back, I can see this is the pattern that has occurred each time. It is only after these first three experiences that God brings a new opportunity my way. This is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because I have yet to feel completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ. New steps of obedience always involve a leap of faith on my part. I’m always stretched in my trust beyond where I’ve been previously, but this process prepares me to be ready to say “Yes Lord…Here am I…send me.”
I surrendered to God’s call – After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has had us on, and Cheryl and I agree where God is leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. That does not mean it is easy for us to leave our current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we are in the center of God’s will for our life.
A special word to the spouse: Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in our current ministry, but she has always lined with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. Cheryl has always had the same Spirit’s leading that I am having, often before me. God has never allowed us to be confused with differing messages. That’s part of our confirmation.
Discerning a change in ministry assignment can be a difficult task, especially when you are comfortable where you are currently. Perhaps my experiences can help.
Have you shared these experiences? What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?