This blog post is long overdue, I know, but I was waiting for something to happen of a more permanent nature before I posted something, but nothing ever happened -- until now! Where to begin? I know, the beginning. I have been looking for a church to pastor for over a year and a half and only one church showed any interest in me during that time, but it didn't work out. With three kids in college and no steady income, at least not steady significant income, we have spent all of our retirement and the bulk of our savings waiting on the Lord. Though I have sent my resume to friends, churches and even posted it on the web, nothing happened. I was the invisible man.
Thankfully the Lord kept us busy. We have not been bored. Some months I preached over twenty times at various churches and conferences, but the monetary blessings from such a life are far less than the expenditures. Even though we were blessed by kind gifts from the churches we ministered in, we were still losing financial ground at about a 12 to 1 ratio every month. Yet the Lord provided exactly as He deemed fit. We had every need met and were ministering to many people in many places, sometimes we ministered together, sometimes separately. There were times we drove to the Phoenix Airport together and flew to different locations, then came back, met up at the airport and drove home.
Living out of a suitcase for 18 months can be enduring, but we are really good at it now. Put yourself in our position, what would you do? Do you keep waiting on the Lord and ministering or do you stop booking invitations to preach and get a secular job? This is what was before us. We didn't want to wait until we were flat broke, having sold all our earthly goods and severed all financial ties with our children, and then start looking for a job, especially since we live in a tiny town in the desert. Therefore I decided to stop accepting preaching engagements, clear my calendar, and look for a secular job so I could get into a positive cash flow situation again. I hope this isn't boring you, but if it is you can stop reading.
I took my resume and tried to strip it of as many religious overtones as possible, put the "Dr" in front of my name to impress those who are impressed by such things, emphasized my electronics degrees, and things I have done which I thought might appeal to the secular job market. I started learning about the best places to look for jobs on the internet and tried to figure out what I might do in the secular world. Maybe I could be a "project administrator!" Sounds ominous and important, but I have no idea what it means. I also noticed that many corporate positions were asking for a CPD. Really? I had to look it up and discovered that it stands for "Continual Personal Development" profile. Basically it is a history of your work experience and the training you have received over your work career. It was a bit humorous for I have been paid to study for 23 years and went to college and seminary for many years before that. I worked on my CPD for six hours and got up to 1991. I had a long way to go, but was making headway in preparing to enter the corporate business world.
Meanwhile Lisa and I were having many discussions about a variety of things surrounding the ministry. Up to that point I had mostly been looking for churches in the northwest, but was willing to entertain the Lord's providence in other areas as well. Nothing happened so there were no decisions to be made. I then asked Lisa if I should apply to churches on the east coast. I put it this way, "Would you rather I work a secular job in the northwest, or be in the ministry pastoring a small church on the east coast?" We both concluded that pastoring a church on the east coast was the better option, not for financial reasons, but for eternal ones. A necessary caveat must be inserted here.
All of our family lives in the west and northwestern states and pastoring a church, most likely a smaller church, on the east coast would mean not seeing our family. Our family rarely, if ever, came to see us in Burbank. The chances of them visiting us 3,000 miles further east was almost zero. Yes, we visited our family while living in Burbank, but if we lived on the east coast, we most likely wouldn't be able to afford to do that if I was pastoring a smaller church. Thus I knew that if I accepted a call to a smaller church on the east coast, that would pretty much end our face to face visits with family and probably our children too. Airline tickets are $800 to $1,200 each from the east coast, instead of $100 to $300 each from the northwest. Complicating the situation more is that Lisa's parents are getting older and taking more trips to the hospital as happens when you get along in years. Because of this, Lisa and I wanted to be closer to them so we could minister to them. Lisa shared her concerns with her parents, but they graciously encouraged us "to go wherever the Lord would lead." We still felt a bit unsettled about moving so far away, but decided to trust the Lord and see what happened.
I applied to six churches on the east coast, a Christian company on the northwest coast, and was covering my bases by also preparing to look for secular work. It was the middle of May, 2013. I had fulfilled my last preaching engagement and was determined not to accept any others. May was busy however with a wedding in Southern California, Leah returning from studying abroad in Israel, Nate traveling to New Zealand and back, and Mark taking an intensive early summer class at The Master's College, moving in with us, and then returning to start work with his sister in the biblical counseling department at TMC. We went back and forth to the airport and California like windshield washer blades on a car. Then came the downpour. I did reluctantly book five Sundays to preach in the Phoenix area in June and July under the condition I could cancel at any moment.
I had cast my resumes on the waters of the northeast and northwest, but like the many months previous, no one contacted me. I did get a few "thanks but no thanks" emails, letting me know that I didn't make the grade. I was thankful that at least those churches responded to me, some never did. One afternoon I decided to call my friend Rick Goertzen, who pastors Grace Bible Church in Hutchinson, Kansas. I knew he had taken some vacation to go fishing in Canada and I wanted to hear his fish tales. We talked about his trip and the ministry in Kansas. He said that things were going well, but they were having an influx of people and desperately needed teachers. The problem was that the staff and the elders were so busy they didn't have time to train the teachers they needed to meet all the needs they had at GBC -- and then all was quiet.
I thought for a moment we had lost cell phone reception. The reality was that Rick was having an epiphany on the other end of the line. I was just about ready to say, "Are you still there?" when he broke the silence and said, "Would you consider coming to Hutch to train up teachers for us here until you find a church in the northwest?" I have to admit I didn't even pray about it, but said, "Sure!" (I prayed about it later, of course ;-) Rick then talked to his elders, we discussed expectations, and what my responsibilities would be. To make a short story shorter, the elders graciously asked me to come on as a full time, temporary "pastor of equipping" at GBC until I found a church to pastor. What would you do?
Now if that was the end of the story, it would be a good ending to this blog post, but it's not over yet! The very same day Rick related his epiphany to me, two other interested churches contacted me. The next day two more contacted me. The next day two more contacted me! And after that the Christian company I sent a resume to contacted me. It was on that third day the elders at Grace Bible Church in Hutchinson Kansas approved for me to come to Kansas! The ball was now in my court, in fact several balls were in my court and I had to decide which one to pick up. The acceleration from zero to 60 gave me whiplash. What what would you do?
I began to dialogue with all the churches who had shown interest in me. They began to send me large information packets with questionnaires to fill out. My options were many as I had churches on both the east and west coasts that were interested in me, a job interview set up with the Christian company, and an offer to go to Kansas. I decided more prayer, a lot more prayer was needed, and more talking with Lisa, lots more talking. Finally we decided that since the Lord provided a "bird in the hand" in Kansas, we should accept that solid offer which would allow us to go back to waiting for a church to come up in the northwest where we wanted to land all along so we could be closer to family. The east coast is beautiful, and we didn't have objections to living there per se, but we didn't want to be 3,000 miles away from our families. We were willing to move there, and yet we still hoped to be in the Northwest.
This was a difficult decision for me to make. I had been waiting a long time for a church to contact me whose beliefs and practices matched mine. Now I had three of them that fit that description, one exactly, and two very closely. Two of the churches were small churches outside of small towns in upstate New York, another a medium sized church in Pennsylvania. I was seriously conflicted.
One of the smaller churches in upstate New York was so gracious in their response to me that I decided to write to them, summarize what I have written above, and ask for counsel. The gentleman who replied was older and wise in the Lord. He told me several things: first, that I wasn't going to get a secular job for the Lord had called me away from that a long time ago, so not even to bother looking for a secular job. Secondly, he said that it appeared that my desire was to be near my family, which he understood, and that it appeared to be a high priority, and that maybe living on the east coast was not a good choice for us. Thirdly, he said if I decided to move to the east coast, I should only consider coming to his church :-) Ha! Great advice.
It is difficult to look for a church to pastor for 18 months and when three come along turn them down, but that is what I did! I sent all the churches I sent resumes to in the north-central states and on the east coast states a Dear John letter. Thankfully I still had the offer to pastor in Kansas, four churches nibbling in the Northwest, an interview scheduled with a Christian company, and one church still sniffing around a bit. I ended the process with a church in Oregon who wanted to charge me money to submit my resume to them. Two other churches in very small, remote towns, sent me information packets that I filled out. I spent 10 hours filling out one questionnaire and 15 hours filling out another. A third church asked me to read all their literature, but hasn't asked me to fill anything out yet. I still have a telephone interview with the Christian company scheduled. And there is still a faint possibility with the church I found out was subtly investigating me.
What this all means is that we are moving to Kansas in the middle of July. I will be temporarily pastoring at Grace Bible Church of Hutchinson Kansas, teaching, equipping, training, and discipling. Lisa will be doing some women's ministry there and will continue to speak at women's conferences when asked. We will be moving into a one bedroom furnished apartment and moving our things from storage in Wickenburg, Arizona to storage in Hutchinson, Kansas. Now you are in the know! If you hear rumors that we are moving to Kansas, you know those rumors are true. And yes, they have tornadoes in Kansas, and every tornado is caused by the Lord!