Nothing is truly ordinary

Transition Survival Guide

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Okay, this post is a bit of a “cheat” because I really don’t know how to survive a transition in ministry.  I have no real guide, because I’m still IN the transition.  I’ve not emerged on the other side yet.  I only know some of the things that have happened along the way.  So don’t think of this as a guide.  Think of it as a list of “what that guy learned.”  Better – “what that guy is still learning.”  Because that’s the nature of uncharted territory.  It’s organic.  It evolves.  You may think you have a map and a plan, but nothing can prepare you for the surprises along the journey.

Anyway, here goes:

  1. You Will Feel More “Free” Than Ever Before – This is an awesome feeling.  At that junction between quitting one thing and starting something new, you find great freedom.  You will feel empowered.  You find that everything is wide open to you.  Don’t fear it.  Relish it.  Enjoy the fact that once you “arrive” at the next destination, you will never have as much freedom as you do right now.  As a friend told me recently, “Experiment!”  Think outside the box.  Explore possibilities in ministry that might not fit into existing forms.  Be creative.  You have the freedom to, so do it.
  2. You Will Feel More Fear Than You Expect – I’ve jumped off a bridge into a lake not far from where I live.  From a distance, it looked fun.  The bridge didn’t look high.  But once you’re standing on the bridge, suddenly the water below looks a lot further down.  Suddenly the prospect of impacting the water doesn’t seem as appealing.  You will stand on the edge with your knees shaking fighting the temptation not to jump.  But jump anyway!
  3. You Will Be Surprised by Those Who Support You – During this journey, I’ve connected with old friends and made new friends.  It’s very exciting to engage in discussions with people who share the same heart and vision for  the future that you do.  That will give you hope.  That will empower you.  Because even if the initial leap “feels” like you’re doing it alone, as you connect with friends you suddenly don’t feel alone anymore.  And that’s one of the best parts – you AREN’T alone.
  4. You Will Be More Surprised by Those Who Don’t Support You – People will question why you left something.  Was there something wrong?  How could you do that?  People that used to walk alongside you in ministry will stare at you in disbelief.  And that’s just how it starts.  Eventually, people will de-friend you on Facebook and unfollow you on Twitter (and that’s the easy stuff).  In reality, there may even be rumors about you, your plans, your family, your friends – even your character.  There may even be outright lies.  You will be dumbstruck at the source of the opposition and that people believed them.  It will hurt, but don’t be surprised.  I can’t think of anything great that didn’t meet opposition.  Just know that “people” happen, and it can surprise you the way things can become spiritual warfare right before your eyes.  Be ready for it, confront whom you need to confront, shed the tears as needed, then plow ahead.
  5. You Will Be Tempted to Take An Easy Way Out – In the face of fear and opposition, you will want to crawl into a hole and die.  You will weep (I have).  You will scream (I’ve done that, too).  I’m NOT kidding.  You will wonder why God thrust you out on this journey.  You will question whether or not you made a mistake.  Your attempts to quell your fears might only make it worse as you think about the obstacles ahead.  Your efforts to mend broken friendships will fail, or worse, go ignored.  You will feel broken, depleted, and alone (in spite of #3).  At that moment, you may want to turn from God’s calling.  You may be tempted to “please” your critics.  Don’t.  DON’T!  This is between you and God; not you and anyone else.  Don’t take an easy way out by surrendering or settling for anything less than what God has called you to do.  Which brings me to my last point:
  6. Remember Whom You Serve – At the end of the day, you only have to answer to one person:  God.  You won’t have to answer to your friends, your critics, other ministers, or even family.  You have to answer to God when He asks one simple question:  “Did you obey me?”  There is great responsibility in obedience, but there is also great power.  When you obey, you are not relying on your own strengths and talents to accomplish God’s purpose.  You are relying on HIS!  When that happens, no one can stand against Him.  You’re just a tool in His hands; he’s not a genie in yours.  His Will will be accomplished, and you get to go along for the ride!  So never forget Whom you serve.

But these are just my words.  And my words are really no guide at all.  They are merely shared experiences.  In the end, only God’s Word helps to survive.  Scripture is the ONLY real guide for survival.  We have to be IN it.  We have to let Him speak to us.  And in my journey, when I’ve felt like running away screaming, I’ve turned to Scripture.  And there I read time and time again how God stands beside those who obey Him.  This passage from Jeremiah is one of my favorites when I get discouraged.  It is raw, and you can see Jeremiah’s desperation in it.  But you also see his hope:

O Lord, you misled me,
and I allowed myself to be misled.
You are stronger than I am,
and you overpowered me.
Now I am mocked every day;
everyone laughs at me.
When I speak, the words burst out.
“Violence and destruction!” I shout.
So these messages from the Lord
have made me a household joke.
But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord
or speak in his name,
his word burns in my heart like a fire.
It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
I can’t do it!
I have heard the many rumors about me.
They call me “The Man Who Lives in Terror.”
They threaten, “If you say anything, we will report it.”
Even my old friends are watching me,
waiting for a fatal slip.
“He will trap himself,” they say,
“and then we will get our revenge on him.”

But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior.
Before him my persecutors will stumble.
They cannot defeat me.
They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated.
Their dishonor will never be forgotten.
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
you test those who are righteous,
and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets.
Let me see your vengeance against them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
For though I was poor and needy,
he rescued me from my oppressors.

– Jeremiah 20:7-13

Never forget Whom you serve.  Survival is keeping your eye on the goal.  If God has called you, then He stands beside you to accomplish that goal.  And like Jeremiah, take joy (and a huge dose of humility) in knowing that God is stronger than you.  THAT is not just how you survive.

It is how you thrive.

1 Response »

  1. That’s good stuff right there.

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