There are certain times in life when God blesses you with a tremendous amount of clarity. May 2015 was one of those times for me. But let me back up a little bit first!
I began seminary in January 2012, and three years later, in January 2015, I set out on my final semester of classes. There was a lot I had to do over the next four months to reach graduation, and it was also that month that church planting for the ARP was first put on my plate. I applied for, and attended, the ARP Church Planters Assessment Center in March. I wasn’t sure if anything would come from it, but I was hopeful.
By the middle of April my 3 ½ years of seminary was winding down – and with it too was my stamina. The Lord had provided just enough for me to get through these 3 ½ years, but as my car broke down for the second time that semester I became worried. I had no idea where the Lord was calling me after graduation, and I was confused as to what I should even be doing about it. The Lord had been teaching me to wait patiently, but I sinfully started to wonder if it was time for me to take the reins.
It was in this moment of deep struggle that I called one of the elders in my church, John Wingate. He listened graciously to me for almost two hours as I shared with him my concerns and my worries. Near the end, John gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. He said that, as he saw it, the Lord had given me a race to run (seminary), and I had not yet finished that race. My focus only needed to be on finishing that race well. If by the time I finished seminary and the Lord hadn’t opened any doors then we would talk again and see what the next steps might be. But for now, I needed to sprint through the finish line.
Fast forward five weeks…
I was in Charlotte on Friday night before graduation. I had just received an e-mail with my final grades from my last course – thus signifying that I had finished seminary. It was a great moment. Then something even greater happened!
Within the hour, I received a phone call from Mike Jones, the Director of Outreach North America (the ARP’s church planting organization). He told me that it looked like there may be an opportunity for a church plant in the Upstate of South Carolina, and if I was interested then I needed to make a couple of phone calls on Tuesday. I immediately thought of John!
That Tuesday I followed up with our presbytery’s Church Extension Chairman, and he told me that they were hopeful to get me into this position but that they would need a proposal from me. I told him that it would be no problem at all. But as I sat down to write the proposal, I realized I had no clue where I was even supposed to start!
I prayed that the Lord would help me to write my proposal, and that what I presented would simply “not be so bad that it would keep me from doing what the Lord was calling me to.” And then, no sooner had I turned my attention back to my proposal, I got a phone call. It was a friend of mine who I had met at the Assessment Center back in March. He told me that he was also submitting a proposal for a different church planting project in another area, and that he thought it would be good for our proposals to look the same. So he was sending me his proposal as a template to use – if I didn’t mind. I knew immediately that this was another gift from the Lord, and I became quite certain that pursuing this position was exactly what I was supposed do.
There is even more to this story, but the sum of it is that I submitted my proposal that afternoon. Then 13 days later I was recommended and approved to begin an “exploratory” work in the Upstate of South Carolina to determine where might be the best place for a new ARP Church. My start date was July 1st, the day after my internship with the Greenville ARP Church would end. There was no doubt in my mind that the Lord had called me to this new race, which He laid before me the day the other one had ended!
Now as I look back on this season, I continue to be amazed at how God has worked. I had no idea what I was getting into – and I probably still don’t! But I am confident that I am where He has called me.
My prayer for our church plant is that He would continue to specifically call people to Verdae Presbyterian Church. I heard five stories this past Sunday of how He has continued to do that as we accepted our first five new members. And now I am looking forward to hearing even more stories as the Lord continues to grow our church!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6