The Methodist Church has a lengthy process for becoming an ordained minister. It goes something like this:
- Training as a Local Preacher
- A discernment and selection period.
- Two years full-time or three years part-time training for ministry.
- A two year probationary period in appointment.
- Ordination and being “received into full connexion” at the Methodist Conference.
In 2013, after completing my Local Preacher training, and after several prophetic words and revelations, I took a change of direction from this path to work full-time in my present role as the Partnership Development Director of “Pioneer Connexion” – a movement dedicated to helping Pioneer and the Methodist Church work together for the sake of God’s kingdom.
July last year saw that vision threatened through the withdrawal of funding for my role and I received a notice of impending redundancy – my position would be terminated from 31st August 2015. It seemed that this season with Pioneer was coming to an end. A last-minute reprieve from a generous private funder did, however, enable that work to continue and provide funding until August 2016.
Wondering whether this was the time to return to my original path, I entered the “candidating” process for Methodist ministry. This is a precursor to training – a period of discernment for church and candidate alike.
I believe that God spoke very early on in this process. I just needed to learn to listen and to find the courage and faith to persevere. Many things spoke to me during this time; here is a quick summing up of just some of them:
- Owner or Hireling? Bill Hybel’s book “Ax-i-om” (a collection of powerful leadership proverbs) – on the morning of my redundancy warning I had read Bill Hybel’s challenge to church leaders on how we respond when things get tough. The 7th “proverb” in this book explains that when it comes to a difficult moment of choice – a fork in the road – one path leads to hireling status, the other that of owner. I have been utterly convicted by this passage and know that God is giving me a choice; but He wants me to step up and be an owner.
- Honest opinions: Those who really know what I do, and have invested something of themselves in it, cared enough to tell me honestly that I should continue (even though I could see no way forward financially).
- Obvious passion: Those with whom I shared my choice, and who were hearing “my story” for the first time, picked up on what I was really passionate about: That was my work with Pioneer and the Methodist Church. And they told me so.
I have faced a stark choice: The relative “security” or Methodist ministry (house, stipend, pension etc.) that would shape my next 13 years to retirement; or, stay where I am, knowing that my funding would finish in August 2016 unless I could find a way to raise financial support for our work.
This choice has been complicated by the fact that, for me, I feel a deep call to aspects of ministry that I would find fulfilling and life-giving. I love to nurture, to disciple, to preach the Word and to bring people into relationship with Jesus. I have sat at the Methodist Conference two years in a row as ordinands were received into Full Connexion and desperately wanted to be amongst their number.
I believe passionately in what I do. The question has been “how much?” and whether I have the courage to hold on in faith to the vision that God has planted within me. The hireling would take the secure option. The owner would find the courage.
Late in November 2015, on the day I completed the work of my candidating “portfolio”, I came to the decision that I should not proceed with my application for ministry. It has been a tremendously hard decision, but one that I decided I must never look back on with regret. I decided to embrace with joy the sense of purpose that I have been blessed with and commit myself to it fully. I must trust God that what He began by the Holy Spirit, He will continue to bless – that it is not my striving that will complete the work he has given me to do, but it will be done in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
This morning as I prayed for courage and guidance and favour, I was led to this passage in scripture:
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? [Galatians 3:3-4]
And these words came to my mind: “Faith is not a state of mind – it is a condition of the Holy Spirit.”
I have discovered a sense of mission to our Church and God has blessed me with either the stubbornness or the faith, or both, to pursue it. The journey I have been on has not been in vain, and what the Holy Spirit began, the Holy Spirit will finish.