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…