Tuesday, March 02, 2004

four powerful statements today

I heard 4 powerful statements today that may profoundly affect my present and my future. Here is what they were:

I was in Common Grounds this morning doing homework when the pastor that I will be working with in June calls me. We do some small talk and then he begins to share with me the financial difficulties of the church. Bottom line, he told me that if I didn't get funding from the Baptist Convention of Maryland as a church planter then they wouldn't be able to hire me on as a pastor. Statement #1 went something like this, "Mark, I just want you to be prepared for the worse case cynario. We may not be able to afford to hire you in June." Wow! So at this point I am trusting that all will go well with church planters assessment in March and that I will get the funding from the Convention.

Then, literally, a few minutes later Kevin Marsico (the guy in charge of church planting in Maryland for the Baptist Convention) gives me a call. Again there is some small talk which is followed by him explaining the next steps in the process. He mentioned that the review board went over my application and they noticed that I didn't say that I would sign the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM). What I put on my application was that I agreed with most of it but that I hadn't read it in a while. He informs me that, Statement #2 "This year we are requiring that all of our new church planters be willing to sign the Baptist Faith and Message 2000." My heart sinks. I believe that women are not limited by scripture to serve in any position of the church. The BFM states in section VI that only men can serve as pastors. Since I disagree with this, I cannot sign this document.

So with the first two statements of the day, I was hit pretty hard. I went from thinking I would have a full-time paid ministry position with benefits to having no pay and no position in a matter of minutes. Right now it looks like I will be working full-time at Starbucks until we can figure something out with funding. Then came the next two powerful statements of my day.

I shared all of this with my Texts and Communications class of which Dr. Gloer is the professor. We always share prayer concerns at the beginning of class and pray for one another. Only this time, Dr. Gloer said something that brought tears to my eyes: Statement #3, "Today LETS ALL pray for Mark and the situation he is in." Usually one person prays for another. This time each and every person in the class prayed for me. It was a touching and powerful moment. I truly felt loved by my Christian brothers and sisters. My heart and my eyes began to well up.

Then as they were praying for me around the room the final powerful statement of my day hit home. It was simple and true. It was more powerful than the first two statements combined. The last person to pray for me was Chad. My friend, my accountability partner, my brother. It was the simplicity and truth of his first prayerful sentence that impacted me. He said Statement #4, "God, I thank you for my friend." That was the phrase that truly sunk in. Every other person in the room prayed from a place of being sympathetic to my situation. Chad prayed from the place of a close three year friendship. The power of the phrase was not in the eloquence of the words but in the reality of a deep friendship. I knew he meant it from the depths of his heart. And regardless of the situation I was in, my present circumstances or whatever struggle I had asked them to pray for, that phrase broke through all of the passing circumstances and into the reality of our relationship.

In a sense the first two statements deconstructed my security in the future. My ability to pay bills and to pay back loans has been (temporarily) torn apart. Yet, in the last two statements I found hope. There is hope in a praying community. There is hope when people are praying for you and lifting you up before the Father. There is hope in friendship. There is joy in the relationships that we have and in the people that know us. There is hope when our lives are reliant on Christ and not on the world. In these last two statements I am reminded that God is sovereign and that he will take care of me. His care doesn't mean that I won't have to deal with the crap in life when it comes. It simply means that I can be in the midst of a large pile of crap and have a warmth in my heart and a peace in my mind.

I am reminded even now of when I was first called into minstry. I was nervous about going into full-time ministry because I didn't think I would be able to be the provider for my family. Then, as I was praying to God about it, He reminded me, "Mark, I am your provider. I will be the provider for your family, not you." What was true then is still true today and will be true tomorrow.

Father, I thank you for my friends. I thank you that I can trust my future into your hands. I thank you that future insecurity only draws me nearer to you. I wait expectantly for your provision and guidance in all of this.


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