Those of you who know me are aware that I have recently made a transition in ministry. For the last six years I’ve served as Lead Pastor of Ashworth Road Baptist Church in West Des Moines, IA. That position ended for me in December following my call to serve as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Greater Des Moines, IA. This transition, as would be true for any vocation I suppose, was difficult. How should a person evaluate the options? How can one discern the leadership of the Holy Spirit? I used three questions to help me work through the decision I faced.
Question 1: Have I finished the work I was called to do in my present position?
Or to put it another way, have I accomplished what I was supposed to accomplish? Notice the question is not, “Have I done everything I can do?” There’s ALWAYS more that can be done! No, this question is more about gut than to do lists. There comes a point when you realize that you’ve accomplished the main objective that you were supposed to accomplish.
When that happens for me personally, I experience what mystics will call “a sense of release.” Being “released” is the awareness that the burden and calling that brought you to the present position has been removed by God. I don’t want to over simplify it, but it is the conscious recognition that you’re finished. This may even happen prior to an invitation to a new opportunity. When you sense that you’ve been “released,” your attention needs to heighten for the next thing that God is preparing for you. If you haven’t sensed God’s release from your position, it might be that you need to re-engage with what is before you. You may be closer to a break through than you think!
Question 2: Am I called to the new opportunity?
I don’t think its healthy to leave a position to escape problems or adversity. When you leave because of problems you usually just transfer the same issues to the new position. After all, when you run away you take you with you. When you have a sense of release from a position then you’re free to explore the new opportunity based on its own merit. You go forward to a position rather than go from a position. “To” and “from” are basic prepositions that we use multiple times every day. But when it comes to making a change, the difference is immeasurable.
Question 3: Is my family on board with the transition?
I grew up in a pastor’s home, so I know the implications of making transitions in ministry from a kid’s perspective. In my personal career, I’ve never made a change without the full support of my wife. I’ve also done my best to consider my children and to take into consideration their best. During the past year I’ve had several inquiries from churches, each which would have required an out of state move. After considering this third question, however, I recognize that each of those changes would have required some significant sacrifices by and potential risks to my family. It became, in effect, a “deal breaker.”
You may have your own set of questions that you consider as you evaluate a transition. These questions have helped me so I share them with you today. They aren’t limited to ministry changes. Anyone considering a potential career change or job transition can benefit from these diagnostic questions.