Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Honesty about guidance 2)

In my Baptist Union work I occasionally visited churches requesting student missions to explain what was involved and inspire their support.  On a visit to Wales I stayed with a minister and his wife overnight in order to address the church on the Sunday morning.  However, just before I reached my moment to speak in the service the minister suddenly let rip. He told the congregation with such bitterness and sadness that it was his fifth anniversary at the church and that not one of them cared to notice - indeed nobody cared for him and his wife.  His anger was palpable.  The congregation was stunned. I have never forgotten it. It was an extraordinary public breakdown.

It is very hard to explain why but in that very moment of agonized silence when we heard this man's anguish I sensed another nudge from God as though to say: Yes, this is the reality of pastoral ministry but I am calling you to it.  You can face it with me'.  Was this a genuine divine disclosure?  Of course, I cannot be sure but I do know it was the last thing I was expecting - the very last thing.

I wonder whether the fact of my early resistance because I had witnessed my father's labours and disappointments needed direct confrontation!  Certainly, in the awkwardness and pain of that Welsh chapel I was seeing the worst yet hearing a call.  I remember that I still had to speak a few words about mission to the embarrassed congregation though I knew this was unlikey happen.  On the rail journey home I wondered what it had all been about.

You can imagine why I omitted this when I wrote up my application for ministry!  It was too odd and I didn't want to add to speculation as to which minister this was and which church.  But the more I have seen God at work the more I have taken such moments seriously.

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