If you have been keeping up with these blogs then I bet there might be one thing that has crossed your mind. Everything Jay has written about so far occurred before May 2016, but they are just now getting ready to launch weekly worships services. Why so long a break? Well – that is the story for today!
By May 2016 things seemed to be moving ahead for us at a rapid pace. I mentioned a number of weeks ago that I had been hired as a “Church Planting Explorer” in July 2015 with five major objectives to be accomplished within 12-18 months. And at the ten month mark we had hit four of those five objectives. The only thing left to do was something set squarely on my shoulders – ordination.
The ordination process for the ARP Church is a rather involved one. It isn’t simply someone affirming your call. Rather it involves a systematic process to determine if an individual is truly called to the office of minister. This includes a set of five three-hour written exams (Bible, Theology, Church History, Church Polity, and Pastoral Care), one extended questioning with our Candidates and Credentials Committee, and a final examination before our entire presbytery in which you may receive any question on any of those topics. Writing this right now still gives me anxiety!
I took, and passed, those five written exams in March and April of 2016 and hoped to be presented before presbytery at our June meeting. If so, then we would be ready to be an official church plant on July 1, 2016 – right at the 12 month mark. But I still needed to pass the most difficult portion of the process. My committee exam.
To make a long story short, my exam did not go well. I had truly prepared as well as I could have for this committee exam, but it was apparent from the beginning that I was overwhelmed. Questions that I had known a few weeks before were forgotten, and it seemed to me that my ability to speak was completely lost. I gave it my best effort, but I knew that it wasn’t enough.
At the end of my exam the committee asked me to go sit in the sanctuary while they discussed things. To be honest with you, I was just glad it was over! But as I sat in that sanctuary – alone, embarrassed, and feeling very weak – I prayed to the Lord. I simply asked God that the Spirit of Christ might be present with the committee when I went back in there, and that He would be very clear with what my next steps needed to be.
After what seemed like 2 hours (though was probably only 10 minutes!), the committee called me back in. They let me know that they didn’t believe I was ready to be presented before presbytery in June. They told me that I didn’t fail the exam, only that I didn’t advance to the final step. Either way – I felt my tears coming down. My only question for them was to ask if they felt like I was even called to the ministry. And in the next few moments I truly felt the Spirit of Christ present.
The committee actually affirmed that in my struggle to pass the exam they felt even more convinced of my calling. They knew what challenges were before me as a church planter, and they felt like slowing things down for a few months would be the best way for them to care for me as a future minister. They committed, to a man, to help me with everything that I struggled with. This was “just a speedbump.” And over the next few months they followed through on those promises. But that is the story for next week’s blog.
I speak very openly about this struggle when I have the chance, but I debated how much of this to write in our blog series. It wasn’t until my devotional this morning that I decided to be more detailed than I had originally thought to be. That is because, remarkably, this morning my devotional “just so happened” to be 2 Corinthians 12.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
While I had known these verses were true before my experience with ordination – I really know them to be true now. And I am certain that the story to be written of Verdae Pres will involve times like this. Yes, I do believe that we will have great successes and tremendous highs. But I am also certain that we will always squarely see our weaknesses. Why? Because that is where the power of Christ is made perfect. And it was in this first speedbump where the Lord slowed me down to teach me this profound truth. Now that I think of it – maybe it wasn’t a speedbump at all!