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Young Atlanta Pastor Confession #9 - Be Sure God Called You To Pastor Or You'll Quit!

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Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the ninth point; "9) If you're not sure that The Lord called you to be a pastor, quit now because you'll eventually do it anyway.

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!"

James 3:1(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Big houses, big checks, big stages, private jets, fancy cars, VIP treatment, bodyguards, cameras, etc. Just another day in the lives of "The Real Pastors of Somewhere". Well, that's the dream of some after watching too much television. Some young ministers dream of being the next Pastor Joel Osteen, Pastor Andy Stanley, Bishop TD Jakes or Pastor Creflo Dollar so they "step out in faith" and pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, the dream only lasts for a very short while before reality throws cold water on their faces and wakes them up. These powerful, internationally known men of God with successful ministries represent the top 1%. There's a 99% chance that none of us will be one of them.

For the 99%, starting a church is so not glamorous. It's quite the opposite. It's about sacrifice and it will cost you more at the beginning than you'll get out of it. There will be tough days, weeks, months or even years when you will feel like quitting. During those times, if you're not sure that The Lord has called you to do it, that's exactly what you will do. That's probably a good thing because God can use those situations to remove people who enter the ministry for the wrong reasons. It's similar to the test God gave to Abraham in Genesis 22 when He asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. There's nothing more harrowing than putting your dream on the altar and killing it.

John 12:24-25(NLT) - I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

I have had to answer the following question in my heart several times; "If nothing big comes of The Body Church would you still be happy being the pastor?" To be honest, my answer is yes. In fact, I find so much joy in knowing that God is pleased with our faithfulness that I forget to count how many people are actually in the room. I've put the future of the church on the altar before God and settled the issue. We can't make this thing work by ourselves. We can only obey God. He makes it work. If that means pushing through this early season of the church with a few faithful people wearing multiple hats, taking on multiple responsibilities and filling multiple roles, then let's do it to the best of our ability.

The fantasy has died. We let it die the day we realized that God's definition of success is predicated upon obedience to His Will. I'm so proud of the group we have. Every week they put a smile on their faces and take care of their responsibilities with the joy of The Lord. At one point in each service, we point to the North, South, East and West calling the people God has already called to be with us. We encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the reason why we are together in this journey. We have given it all over to The Lord. When He makes things happen they will happen. Until then, we will keep showing up and doing our part. Building The Church of Jesus Christ is not our dream, it is His. We're just privileged to be a part of it.

Luke 9:62(NLT) - But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

There's no turning back. I once heard a preacher say that there's no such thing as a former pastor. When you sign up for this job, you do it for life. It's like becoming a supreme court judge. You don't leave this vocation and reinvent yourself as something else. You leave everything else you're doing and reinvent yourself as a pastor. Outside of health issues or transitioning the ministry to the next generation we don't get the luxury of answering the call of God to lead His church then changing our minds when things get rough. It's like a marriage. You made the decision to say yes, now you have to do your best to stay faithful to your commitment and make it work.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge how difficult it gets sometimes for those who have chosen this path. It's difficult to watch the vision move forward much slower than we could have imagined. It's discouraging when people don't show the same level of faithfulness to you that you've shown to them. It's discouraging when it seems like The Word of God is not bringing the level of results you would expect. It's discouraging when people question your integrity out of complete ignorance regardless of what you've done to prove otherwise. On top of all that, I acknowledge that eventually some pastors just get tired. When it costs more to keep the ministry going than the return on investment it starts to become an unsustainable effort. Yet, we cannot quit. That's the easy way out.

Galatians 6:9(NKJV) - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

My goodness, this scripture is a life-saver. Believe me, I've had my moments when I wondered if this "church thing" would ever work out right. After all the effort, all the money spent, all the ideas, all the studying of The Bible, all the worship team practice, all the attention to detail, all the relationship building, all the outreach, it seemed like something would still go wrong. One time, there was a leak in the roof and a portion of the ceiling collapsed during worship service. We had to just keep going.

Another time, the AC would not work on an extremely hot day. We opened the doors and shook our heads in disbelief. Still, another time the heat would not work on an extremely cold day. I had to leave in the middle of the service to go find a space heater. Problem solved, right? Wrong! We finally got the heater into the sanctuary, turned it on and it tripped an electrical breaker so we lost power on one side of the room. I looked at my wife, she looked at me and we just smiled.

That's just another day in our journey. Regardless, facility issues are much easier to deal with than the disappointment we face when people we think will be with us all the way turn their backs and walk away. Nothing prepared us for that. That's why we say that if you believe God has called you to do this, just be sure. 🙂 Hopefully, you have a good sense of humor because if you don't know how to laugh under pressure you will cry.

Never assume that anyone will support you faithfully for a long time. That will save you a lot of heartache. Then, if people do remain faithful it will be a pleasant surprise that will only add value to your ministry. The only person who knows the true level of someone's commitment is God. The most valuable resource we have in the church is each other so during challenging times, if we have the right people around us we know we will make it.

So why do we keep showing up every week? The group of us who show up every week believe that this is what God called us to do. Many people don't believe the same but we know God does and that's what matters. If we don't grow weary in doing well, one of these days we will reap a bountiful harvest. God will exalt us publicly when we complete this process. In the near future, we will see our breakthrough and nobody will be able to deny it. We can't lose heart even when things go wrong. We just have to keep rolling. God will have it no other way. We won't quit because there's no quit in us.

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