Sometimes you take a step and it’s not right, so you make adjustments and go another direction.
This is what happened with the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. Paul and Silas headed to Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbid them to preach in Asia.
Then Paul and Silas went to the province of Bithynia, and the same thing happened.
The Holy Spirit told them not to minister in Bithynia. (I’m guessing that at this point Silas might be thinking, “Maybe this Paul guy doesn’t know what he’s doing?)
The next night, Paul had a vision of a man from Greece pleading with him, “Come over here and help us.”
Paul and Silas decided to leave for Greece at once, knowing that the Holy Spirit was leading them there.
Debbie and I are at a similar place with our ministry.
Five years ago, Deb and I made a decision to resign our staff position at Living Word Christian Center, to plant a new church.
It has been a journey of faith.
The church never grew above 50 people and we rarely made our budget. In August of this year we walked through the painful experience of closing the church doors.
When you go through an experience like this you have a lot of questions.
- Why didn’t the church grow?
- Is God done with me?
- What am I going to do next?
I did not know the answer to these questions, except that I was quite sure that I had not finished my course and that God still had something for me to do.
One scripture that the Holy Spirit used to minister to me was the parable of the fig tree.
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”
The owner of the vineyard represents the Lord. Sometimes the Lord does ask us to chop down the tree, but it’s important that we understand the purpose in chopping down the barren tree was to use the space in the vineyard to plant a tree that will be bare fruit.
The Holy Spirt began to talk to me about refocusing my ministry on kids and family ministry. That is where I have born the most fruit in my life.
At this point I began to pray and I asked the Lord for several things.
- I don’t want to move again. (I’ve moved more than any one human should.) I asked the Lord to connect me with a church in the Twin Cities.
- I want to be part of a generational church. It seems like most churches fall into one or two categories, either they are stuck in the past or they have a philosophy that they don’t want anyone over 30 on the platform. I don’t think when we get to heaven we are going to be separated by generation. It’s not going to be Boomer Heaven and Millennial Heaven. We are all going to be together. I’m convinced there has got to be a way to bring the generations together in church.
- The third thing I asked for was that someone would pursue me. I did not feel led to put my resume out there and go through multiple interviews with different churches. “Lord you know where I am and what my gifts are. You can speak to the leader that you want me to help” was my prayer.
Two days after my prayer, Jodi Ruch, reached out to me on Facebook. (In 1987, when Jodi was 16 years old, she was one the captains on my puppet team. Today Jodi and her husband, Nate, are lead pastors at Emmanuel Christian Center in Spring Lake Park.)
Jodi mentioned that Nate wanted to talk to me. I met with Pastor Nate at a local Starbucks. Emmanuel’s Kids Ministry was in transition and Nate wanted to hire me to do some consulting – to walk them through the transition of hiring a new leader for their kids ministry.
As I began to walk through the process of consulting, it was clear to me that the God had prepared a place for me at Emmanuel. In other words, Emmanuel Christian Center was the answer to my prayer.
Pastor Nate is leading Emmanuel through significant change to reach the next generation, but he is doing it in way that is honoring to the generation that built the church. This is not an easy thing to do and most people don’t have the patience to do it.
The bottom line is that on October 2, I received a new assignment from the Lord. I started my new job at Emmanuel as Family Ministry Pastor. I am super excited to be part of an amazing team and looking forward to what God has in store as we reach our community for Christ.
Right now my heart is full of gratitude.
Gratitude to the Lord for giving me another assignment. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that He is not done with me yet and I still have a supply to offer.
Gratitude to my wife Debbie, for always sticking with me as we walk our journey together.
Gratitude to Pastor Nate and Jodi for believing in me. (There’s not a lot of churches hiring Family Pastors that are over 50)
Gratitude to Emmanuel for asking me to serve their families.
One last thought: Be nice to the kids you are leading because one day they may be
Not only has Mark served in the local church as pastor, associate pastor, and family ministry pastor but he is also a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team.