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God’s Unfolding Will in Our Lives…

Today was a day that I never thought would happen. In fact, that’s sort of the story of my life for the past couple of years. God has been full of surprises in my walk and relationship with Him.

Tonight Pastor Chappell shared with our church family that God is working in our lives and calling us into the pastorate. This means, in time, that He will be leading our family away from Lancaster Baptist and into another ministry. This is one announcement that I never expected to hear! I want to share a few brief thoughts about the story leading up to tonight’s announcement. It’s way too long, but I’m sure I’ll be writing about the process in other blog posts in the days ahead. For now, here’s the short version.

In retrospect, God’s carefully woven tapestry of a new ministry call can be clearly seen. But it’s been a long process of seeking Him, and asking for clarity. And it’s been two things for sure—an agonizing process of “re-surrendering” my life all over again to Him, and a terrifying process of realizing He was asking me to yield back to Him so much that He’s blessed me with in life and ministry.

He has slowly, almost imperceptibly, been leading me down a path of discovering He had plans for me that didn’t match up with my plans. My plans were to live the rest of my days serving at LBC. My plans were stable, secure, and predictable. My plans were familiar. But those were my plans.

Through His Word, through His Holy Spirit’s stirring in my heart, through many seasons of prayer, through much counsel, and through a lot of spiritual wrestling, He has clearly told me He is calling me to pastor. Unexpected? Yes. Scary? For sure! Off script? Yep—all over again.

I confess—I told Him no. I pushed Him back. I asked Him not to mess with my life. I relegated His leading to some personal, emotional struggle or carnal thought process. I expected to plow through it, search my heart, and recognize my error—only so I could refocus on my familiar ministry life. But He kept convicting. He kept calling. And so I kept resisting. But over time, with His long-suffering, He finally brought me to a point of surrender. It was a bit of a spiritual head-lock when God said, “You can take the price of obedience, or face the price of disobedience—which will be much worse. It’s your choice.” That’s about when I said, “Ok, God. I don’t want to go there. I will obey.”

In that moment, I knew I would need to speak with Pastor Chappell about this very soon. We love each other too much, have served together too long, and are too committed to the Lord’s will for me not to have him intimately involved in the counseling, praying, and discerning process. And so we talked—actually over several days and for many hours. And God gave great grace in those talks—which were difficult for both of us, because we truly anticipated serving together for life. And we knew this would mean a very tough transition for both of us and our families.

Through those talks I discovered a lot about Pastor Chappell all over again. He could have responded in a lot of ways—but he responded as a loving pastor, gracious friend, and committed servant of Christ would. He responded with wisdom, support, insight, and true friendship. He responded as the biblical mentor that he has always been in my life. Which frankly, made the call of God even more difficult to accept. God’s call is tough when He’s asking you to leave people that you love very much!

By now, if you’re a cynical reader you going, “Yeah right… c’mon, Cary… what’s the real story? What’s the back story? What’s really going on?”

Well, I don’t do “back stories.” I don’t play politics. It is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s nothing gossipy here—unless you just really want to gossip about how God interrupts our carefully laid plans and secure worlds with His radical request for us to lay it all down and follow Him in blind obedience. There’s just not anything more to the story.

Dana and I and our kids have been joyfully and gratefully serving the Lord where He placed us twenty-two years ago. It’s been a dream come true—cubed! It’s been off the charts wonderful. It still is. Which is exactly why I kept telling God, “No.” Let me make this clear—I don’t want to leave LBC any more than Abraham wanted to kill Isaac. And I’ve given God every reason I could think of to try to talk Him into leaving us right where we are. At the end of the struggle, after having exhausted every biblical principle I know, I had to give in to what God was asking. How hypocritical it would be to rebel against Him, after so many years of teaching people to trust Him!

God has confirmed over and over and over… so many times that I had no way of arguing with Him any more. All that’s left is to obey. And so, we have chosen to obey—against all logic and human calculations. We do not know where, when, or how. We have no carefully laid plan—just a clear call.

I’ve never been here before, and never imagined being here before. This is all new for us. As a family, while we are facing an uncertain future, we do all have a peace about God’s leading. We know we are obeying Him, and that He is going before us and preparing the way. And we trust Him.

I told some of our teens tonight, when I was 18, surrendering my life to God was fairly easy—there wasn’t much of a life to surrender. It was all conceptual—just dreams. But 25 years later, surrender takes on a whole new level of risk. It’s been tough to wrestle this one to the ground—the toughest battle of my entire life, by far.

I’m thankful for a godly pastor and friend who is spiritual and supportive—and with whom I will be able to continue partnering in ministry in the future! I’m thankful for a church family who agreed tonight to pray us through this time of transition as we seek to know and do God’s will. I’m thankful for a wife who saw this call taking shape before I did and challenged me to accept it—I sure love her feisty, gracious, godly heart! (Against all of her own best interest, she wants to obey God with me!) I’m thankful for children who have agreed to trust God along with me and who don’t want me to disobey Him to preserve their own familiar lives. I’m thankful for friends who are praying and encouraging. I’m thankful for counselors—most of them in their 60’s and 70’s who have given me their time, wisdom, and hearts. I’m thankful for God who has so awesomely spoken to me through His Word in so many critical moments in recent days. Following God is sometimes scary—but it’s always sweet. He’s always good to His Word, and a very present help!

Questions—so many of them are racing around in my head… and maybe yours. But I truly don’t have any answers yet. If I did, I would share them with you. I’m certain in the coming days God will answer each one. I’m certain that He will show us exactly where to go and when. We are awaiting His instructions. A friend posted this quote from Life Quest on my Facebook page tonight: “Submission to God obeys now and thinks later.” I guess it’s time to swallow my own advice!

In closing this post, I simply ask you to pray for us. Probably sooner than later, we will be stepping into a role that scares me. I’m not delusional to think I am capable of this. I’m in WAY over my head—and have been for a long time. By God’s grace, we will do my best in whatever assignment He gives to us—but it will have to be all His grace, that’s for sure.

Your prayers would mean the world to us as we seek to navigate these coming months in a way that would bring the greatest glory and honor to Jesus! I leave you with a verse God gave me a few days ago as His final confirmation. I’ll write more about it at a later time…

Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight. (1 Chronicles 19:13)

PS—feel free to email me questions if you have them…

 

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20 Comments

  • It is truly an indescribable blessing to have a son and his family so sensitive to God’s leading…and that want to serve the LORD no matter what it costs in our human terms…and also in a manner that shows walking by faith and not by sight in complete surrender to His perfect will. We sensed the cancer trial was a vital part of preparation for this new season of service in your life.
    Mom and I love you so deeply and we will hold you up in constant pray for God to continue to order your steps in the marvelous way that he already has for these last amazing 43+ years. The excitement and anticipation of what The LORD has next is thrilling to consider.
    Just when I thought… upon your healing and deliverance…that it could not get much better for you, Dana and the family, God is indicating that perhaps we cannot even conceive of the thoughts and plans He has for you, Dana, Lance, Larry and Haylee. Wow! The best lies ahead.
    Love, Dad

  • …and what The LORD has in the days ahead for Pastor Paul Chappell and all of our dear brethren at the Lancaster Baptist Church as you remain vitally connected in joint ministry….”striving together for the glorious gospel”.
    It is truly exciting to see a modern day Paul and Timothy situation. We join all who know and love you in wondrous Praise to our Lord and Saviour…as we lift up His holy, precious and wonderful name – Jehovah – Jeshua – Jesus! … And as we all hold forth and earnestly contend for His pure, preserved, powerful, precious and PERFECT words of Spirit and Life!
    LRS

  • Cary and Dana,
    In over your head is EXACTLY where you want to be! (Look below at vs. 18) This is my prayer for your family.
    14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[c] 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

  • So proud of you bro! Excited to see where God places you and Dana and the family and to see the fruit of your labors there! Gonna be a great ride, so hold on!

  • Cary, I must admit that Mom and I were a bit shocked at first when you and Dana told us that you felt that God was dealing with you to move on and to Pastor. We looked at the amazing and marvelous way that God has used you at LBC. You helped build a Youth Ministry that has helped and encouraged thousands of teens over the years. You not only shared with them the Love of Christ, but you also sacrificed time and effort to teach and encourage them to trust the Lord in their everday lives. As the result of your leadership and that of Pastor Chappell you have seen an enourmas amount of young people surrender their live for full time Christian service. That was no small task, you are to be commended for you part in laboring with Pastor Chappell, the staff and laymen to build an amazing work in Lancaster.

    Just as Mom and I reflected on your part in the work at LBC, we realize that God knows best and will place you where he feels you are needed. We look forward to how and where God will use you as he continues to shape and mold your life. I hope yoo know how much we love you and Dana and our Grandkids. We will continue to lift you up in prayer and that God will use you in a great way. You wonder where God will send you and how will you be as a Pastor, I believe that Phil. 4:13 answers that, ” I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. ” God will give the wisdom, the strength and the ability for the task at hand.
    Dana, you are to be commended for the love, devotion and support you have given Cary over these many years. You are his compleater. God has used you to stand by his side to help and comfort him and to lift him up when the burden was heavy. You are and amazing Lady. God could not have given us a more wonderful loving daughter and we are so proud of you. We know that you and Cary will make a great Pastor and Wife.
    We Love You,
    Dad and Mom Evans

  • My wife and I will certainly be praying for you! Your blog and Spiritual Leadership lessons have been a great help to me personally as a youth pastor, and your marriage counseling was a great help to me as I began my life as a husband. I know God will use you, and we’ll be praying that He will direct!

  • Bro Schmidt, Dana and family we just wanted to simply say we love you all and will be praying for you. You are all such a regular part of our family conversations and have blessed us so much, the kids just adore you and love you, and you have been such a help to us in so many ways. We were joking last night and saying well if the Lord moves them back east and we ever get a military transfer back to the east coast we already know who our pastor will be!!!Love you all, Coefield Family

  • This is so neat to hear. We were introduced to your blog around the same time we started using your “Discovering Your Destiny” material we were teaching to our Sunday School class. It’s so funny we thought we were teaching the teens/young adults, but God was actually teaching US– and using the material to solidify our call into full time Christian service (We are just starting deputation to become missionary builders).

    We made it a point this year to go to the Youth Workers Conference at the Wilds to hear you speak..we knew it would be good! We have put so many things into practice that you spoke about…keeping things simple in youth ministry, prioritizing our marriage first, etc. The way God has used you and Mrs. Dana (b/c we all know behind every great man is an awesome woman :) ) across the country to magnify God is inspiring!! To think that all that can be traced back in part to your Dad “just happening” to turn in to that church on the first morning of their Revival. I am truly amazed at how God worked it all out. (From his comment he sounds like a great Dad, by the way!)

    I am 36, we have 5 kids, so I know what you mean by surrendering at this point in your life being harder than at 18. Selling everything, uprooting your family and disappointing loved ones is not for the faint! But, our God is worthy! This verse has especially comforted my husband and I as we face the same: Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

    He has nothing but good in mind for us. So excited to see what he’s going to do with your family…It’s gonna be great!

  • Kalispell, Montana ….just a thought!!

  • My wife and I will be praying for your family. We were just talking about you and your wife the other day. We both agreed that you are the single best example of parenting that we have ever seen; our own parents included. I have learned much about the ministry and family life through your example. We are excited to see this next step in your life.
    Thanks for being an example to me, a rookie in the minstry!

  • Brother Schmidt,
    We have been so blessed through your ministry at LBC! I am amazed at how God has used you in my own life, in the life of my family, and in our church and Christian school. I will never forget coming over to your house as a student at WCBC and roommate of your brother-in-law, Michael Evans, and watching a world series game. Your joyful, steadfast, and encouraging spirit have made a great impact on my life. You have been and are a mentor, example, and friend to me and so many thousands of others, even from a distance. Your wisdom given through your blog, books, sessions, and messages have been a tremendous blessing and great resource in my own life and in the lives of the teenagers and people I minister to as a Christian school teacher and full-time ministry worker. How exciting to live by faith and trust in a God who knows the end from the beginning! Thank you for all your years of labor as God’s servant at LBC! We can’t wait to see what God has in store for you and your family in the future! Rest assured that you will be in our prayers as you seek the next chapter that God will write in the book of your life as you faithfully minister for Him. I will leave you with my life verse as I have sought to live by faith as a young Christian, ministry worker, husband, and father- just as you have for so many years- Jeremiah 33:3 says “CALL unto me, and I WILL ANSWER thee, and shew thee GREAT and MIGHTY THINGS, which thou KNOWEST NOT.” I’m looking forward to hearing about the “GREAT and MIGHTY THINGS” that God is going to continue to do in your life that are beyond our comprehension as we “CALL” and see God “ANSWER!”

  • There aren’t too many things that God calls “good”. He called his perfect creation “good”. He calls marriage “good”. And He says, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good thing.” The choice to pastor is certainly a good thing, and I will be praying for you through this transition. God bless!

  • I am VERY excited for you and your family!

    I have long wondered, “What would a church look like if Bro. Schmidt were the pastor?” There are a lot of answers that come to mind… Needless to say, I imagine it would be exactly the kind of church I would want to attend.

    Our family will definitely be praying for you as you make this transition.

    Jacques

  • Bro. Schmidt,
    You have been a tremendous blessing to my family and me for almost 16 years. We have no words to explain how we feel right now. But we’re sure God will use you wherever He takes you…His promises will never fail you… Hebrews 6:12 says “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” We pray that God will richly bless you as you move forward to inherit these abundant blessings!

  • Bro. Schmidt,

    I’m so excited to read this! I cannot wait to see what more God does with you and your family. Thank you for continuing to be such a great example in surrendering to His will. I am praying for you guys as the Lord leads in your lives.

  • Bro. Schmidt,

    Thank you for your great example of faithfulness! Enjoy the adventure of your new endeavors!

    Travis and Julee

  • I will be praying for you and Dana as you follow God’s plan and will for your life. I am excited about hearing how He leads.

  • Good morning Mr. Schmidt!
    Just wanted to let you know that my family and I will be praying for you and your family. Also, this post reminded me of chapter 11 in Hebrews, mostly verse 8, and specifically the last five words of said verse: Hebrews 11:8
    “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
    Taking a leap of faith with God holding your right hand! (Isaiah 41:13)
    With prayers,
    Tiffany R. (Pennsylvania)

  • Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt,
    Thank you for being a true example to all of the college students at West Coast. I found out today that this new journey in your life was taking and place and to be honest my instant thoughts were “NO WAY! it can’t be true!, Why would he uproot his whole family?” but then I thought to myself, why not? You and your family have been such a blessing and example to me as I attend West Coast. Thanks for your example of a true servant’s heart that is sold out to the Lord, even when no one is looking! I will be praying for you and your family!

    Never Quit,
    Greg

  • I was talking with my mom and she let me know about this announcement. I am excited for you and your family. Alicia and I will be praying for God’s amazing grace as He leads you and the family down the path. Remember, that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. He know every single intricate detail of what lies ahead, and will supply you with all you need to reach more people for him. As Pastor always said, “Same old stuff, just a whole lot more of it!” Can’t wait to see you and say Hi. We will be in Lancaster next week for Joanna’s wedding! Praise the Lord for his guidance and favor. Thank you for obeying the Lord, even when it’s not easy. Keep doing that, and He will bless tremendously! Love Ya!


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