Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Honesty about guidance 12)

In these last 11 posts I have laboured through my very first experiences of the call to ministry and my first church.  I realize that the cynic could explain all these happenings as just human experiences - a mixture of wishful thinking, changing moods, coincidences and organizational expectations.  What makes me believe that God was involved lies in the subsequent stories. We sometimes talk about 'signs following' (Mark 16:20) which confirm the rightness of decisions and throughout the next 48 years I have witnessed such answers to prayer and hosts of personal stories that I am convinced God has been in all of this.

One of the difficult parts of guidance is the saying No to a situation which seems right.  Ever since my Oxford experience I have received occasional invitations to something new and (very) attractive yet in prayer I knew it was not God's will.  A lack of peace was palpable.  But equally, saying Yes later on proved difficult.  I resisted moving from Blackburn and refused to consider the Cambridge church for nearly two years until a leader I much respected said: 'If God is calling someone to this church why shouldn't it be you?'  It still took some fasting and wrestling!

I have often wondered whether seeking guidance in the local church context is easier than when other Christian organizations seek their leaders.  The invitation to leave local ministry to become Principal of Spurgeon's seemed another silly idea hardly worth considering. What turmoil I went through in that process as some pleaded with me to take it seriously.  I am sure there was some prayer from both sides but pressures, some political, were inevitable and the interviewing process was entirely different.  Carol and I certainly didn't have the same degree of peace in moving to London and my boys say it was the worst thing that could happen to Carol.

And the move to the US.  Did I know guidance there?  This was the most complicated move of all involving more risks than anything we had done before.  Looking back over 15 years there I do see some 'signs following' but of a very different order from the transformed lives seen in local church ministry.  The complexity of spiritual discernment has made prayer an essential ingredient in seeking guidance in every move.  And that, I guess, is the fundamental lesson through it all!

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