It amazes me how the guidance of friends and family has influenced my life. Maybe it was just because I have such a biblical name, but for as long as I can remember I was always encouraged by the people around me to become a pastor. I’ve always loved the churches I was a part of, and I looked up to my pastors as teachers and role models. I loved studying the Bible and trying to figure out what faith was all about. In my heart I had the sense that God was calling me into church ministry. I just never thought it would happen the way it did.
After attending Sterling Mennonite Fellowship (Winnipeg, MB) for four years, the church found itself without a pastor. I remember speculating with friends about who might want to come serve our congregation. The church struck up a search committee, took applications and conducted interviews, but nothing materialized. One evening, I got a call from one of the committee members asking me if I wanted to consider the possibility of meeting with them. My first thought was “No Way!”
In the years I had been there, I was given many opportunities to lead groups, worship services, Bible studies, and to preach. I really appreciated what our previous pastor did to mentor and help me in doing these things, all things that I love. In some ways I saw this as helping me prepare for ministry, but I still thought “No.” I was only 25 and I was just finishing my undergraduate degree at Canadian Mennonite University. I didn’t feel ready and I really enjoyed my work in Communications at Mennonite Church Canada.
But for some reason I was intrigued. I wondered, “Is this how God calls people? Is this my Moses moment? Should I pretend I didn’t see the bush or should I go closer, treading carefully on what could be holy ground?”
I wasn’t quite used to this. In my Baptist tradition, my understanding was that pastors needed to work their way up the ladder. First they needed to finish their schooling, a Masters of Divinity being quite standard. Then they would probably need to put in their time as a youth pastor, earning enough equity to eventually be able to lead a congregation as a lead pastor. Could it be that my story would be backwards?
I decided that I would meet with the search committee to see why they had given me that call. I felt that I would have had enough chances to back out since Mennonites like to take their time making decisions. We like to decide things together, never letting any one person or group of people decide something of this magnitude for the whole church. As a priesthood of all believers, we believe that each member of the body has a responsibility to take part in discernment. We all have equal access to God, and the best way for us to discern God’s will is to work together.
One meeting led to another. I found myself meeting with our church council and then the whole congregation. Then one Sunday, I was presented to the church as our next pastoral candidate leading to an eventual congregational vote. I spent a lot of time thinking, praying, talking with my family, other church leaders, and former teachers. I told them all that I was afraid because I was young and inexperienced. I remember one of my adopted grandparents telling me, “That’s wonderful, then preach like a 25-year-old!” I quickly learned that Sterling has a history of investing in young pastors. To my surprise, most people weren’t afraid that I was so young. And I quickly realized why.
In my weakness and inexperience, I have had no other choice but to trust in God to lead me through this new adventure. I spend countless hours asking God for help, begging Him to show me what to do and tell me what to say. In many ways I do feel like Moses: small and incapable. But the great thing about Moses was never Moses. What made Moses a great leader was that the God of all creation stood behind him, leading him, guiding him and telling him what to say. Like Moses, I can claim nothing for myself. Everything that has happened in me and at Sterling has been God’s doing. In asking me to become their pastor, Sterling wasn’t saying they trusted me; they were saying they trusted God.
As I look back, I can’t imagine saying no to the calling of God and my church to serve them as pastor. In one year alone, I have seen God work in so many ways. I have never grown as much and I have also never felt so sure that God is active and alive in our world. I hope, that as I continue school and gain more experience, that my attitude towards God would remain the same. It must be God working through all of us. For when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).