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A Funny Thing Happened

A funny thing happened on the way to North Carolina. I have had an ongoing sense that God is not done with us in terms of ministry as I retired from the church I lead for 14 years in Indiana and moved here to be closer to our son, daughter-in-law and five grandchildren. I knew I did not want to come to Concord, sit in a rocking chair and watch TV.

At one point in January I had this crazy idea to post a resume for ministry on Even as I was posting it, I thought to myself, "Who goes to Indeed to look for a pastor? What are the chances someone will see this and respond?"

Meanwhile, about a month ago in Concord, a United Methodist congregation took a vote on disaffiliation from the denomination, which requires a 2/3 majority, and failed to disaffiliate by a handful of votes. A group of folks from that congregation contacted leadership of the North Carolina Global Methodist Church about starting a new congregation in Concord. They held prayer meetings on Mondays, asking God for direction. They knew many in their old congregation were restless to start something and stay together as they moved from the UM Church to the GM Church.

Jeff, one of that praying group, owns a business and uses Indeed to find staff all the time. Now don't get ahead of the story. Eight days ago he was on Indeed looking for staff, and had a prompting to type in "Pastor" and see what Indeed brought up. About fifth in the list was this former UM Pastor who was now part of the Global Methodist Church, and who was moving to North Carolina for family and was looking for a ministry position in his "retirement."

Jeff paced and prayed about whether or not this was God's doing and whether to reach out to me. He finally sent me an email through Indeed, indicating he was part of this group looking for a pastor to help start a new GM Church. Was I interested? I replied to his email, saying I was, indeed, interested. (pun intended!) He called within a few minutes and we had a positive conversation about all of it. The GM leadership had no pastor in North Carolina available to recommend to the group. Jeff and I could only conclude that God had brought us together.

Shirley and I met with that prayer group last Monday, and a leader from the NC GM Church met with us as well. In an hour and a half it became apparent to us all that God had done this. They enthusiastically asked me to become their founding pastor. Shirley and I enthusiastically agreed to do so. The GM Church leader approved it just as enthusiastically.

One thing that signaled God's involvement was the timing. On Saturday, the group was praying for a pastor and were concerned that folks from their previous UM Church would begin attending other churches in the area and scatter. On Monday, they had a pastor who was available to begin immediately.

So the result is that we're going to begin worship together next Sunday with folks who come by word of mouth among from the congregation that barely missed disaffiliation from the UM Church! This soft launch of a new GM Church start-up will move toward becoming an official Global Methodist Church congregation, likely this summer. At some point, when we discern God is ready for us to do so, we will hold a public launch of the new church and begin to spread the word to the Concord area.

This is all breath-taking to me. You see, I don't fit the profile of a young, entrepreneurial, type-A church planter. And yet God has clearly led me to help launch this new church. Jeremiah 29:11 came to my heart as I was thinking and praying about all this.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

Jeremiah spoke these words to Israel while they were in exile and could not see the hope and future God had for them. The slow-motion train wreck of separation The United Methodist Church is going through, and the failed disaffiliation vote of this Concord congregation left members there in exile between what they always knew and where God was leading them. I had a sense God was not finished with me, but had no idea what form any ministry would take in my "retirement" in North Carolina.

But God knew the plans He has for us. And just like that, from Saturday to Monday, a church start gets their shepherd and a retired pastor gets his ministry opportunity. Coincidence? Luck? Good fortune? Nope. The hand of God!

If you are reading this, I invite you to pray for us. At least a hundred things have to happen in the next three to four months for this start-up to become a charted congregation with the GM Church. God will need to lead us to a semi-permanent place to worship and do ministry. A budget and staff will need to be formed. A bunch of other things will need to happen. But God's got this, and God's got us in the palm of His hand.

We are determined to follow Jesus faithfully, and we trust He will work it all out. He knows the plans He has for us, you see. And the One who can use to place a shepherd with a flock can arrange everything else that is needed to be a thriving, fruitful church.

A funny thing happened on the way to North Carolina. God made a veteran pastor into a church planter, even though he does not fit the typical profile. I can't wait to see what the Holy Spirit does next!


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