As the news of my moving on from Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship in Lexington, SC has traveled, I have been confronted with even more people who want to know, “What’s next?” In our baptist tradition, we are used to pastors and ministers sharing with their congregations that they are moving on; however, when that news is shared we are also used to people sharing where they are moving.
Unlike our Methodist brothers and sisters who know their calls are going to change and that periodic moves are a part of being called, in the baptist tradition, it’s not uncommon to find pastors or ministers who have been in the same church for ten years or more. In fact, after some moving around in the beginning stages of ministry, a baptist pastor or minister very often settles down into a longer tenure as a pastor.
Which is why my current situation has evoked the reaction, “That’s not how you are supposed to do it.” In fact, I have had people who have been in ministry much longer than I have explain to me to share you are moving on before you have secured another position is not wise.
I understand their concerns and appreciate their investment in my life, but for me, there is nothing about this being called to ministry that has been what I was supposed to do. Instead, my call to ministry is what I must do. What I have to do. What I was created to do.
As a woman raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, I was not supposed to be called to preach or pastor. As a woman trained in the Cooperative Baptist tradition, I am supposed to be happy, content, and satisfied to have even found one church who would call a woman to be pastor.
Why push the envelope? Why challenge the system? Why take the risk?
Because the gospel ministry is full of examples of Jesus and his disciples not doing what they are supposed to do. Jesus and his disciples are told again that they are not supposed to be preaching and teaching a gospel different than religious leaders have been teaching.. Jesus and his disciples get thrown out of towns, imprisoned, beaten, and ultimately killed for not doing what their supposed to do.
When you answer a call to discipleship, you answer a call to see a light so bright you are glowing or blinded from the encounter. When you answer a call to discipleship, you find yourself in the wilderness, tempted to turn back to a life that’s predictable and certain from day to day. When you answer a call to discipleship, you wrestle at night with unknown beings and wake the next morning only to limp away. When you answer a call to discipleship, your name is changed, your future is changed, you are changed.
If we say we are disciples, we must deny ourselves (and the system of supposed to), take up our cross and follow after him with no certainty of where the journey will lead us.