I haven't left a ministry I've held less than two years since I was fired from Central Church of Christ in Anita, Iowa. Anita was my second student ministry and first full-time ministry. The year I spent in full-time ministry in Anita wasn't that great and I was about to resign when the elders, realizing I was looking around, decided I needed to go so they would have time to get someone in town so they could drive school bus (and make a living) when school started in the fall. Parting was "not sweet sorrow".
God led us to Mankato, Kansas, where we fell in love with the people and they loved us in return. We made lifelong friends, some of whom are now with the Lord, during our three years in north central Kansas. After the first year, the Mankato church gladly shared me with the church in Superior, Nebraska, and I preached for both congregations every week. Mankato was, and still is, a very small county seat town but it was home to many wonderful people. The Catholic priest in Mankato became my best friend and we had some great times together bowling in league, buying cars, and sitting at Boogart's grocery drinking coffee and talking theology.
Over the years, I've had some interesting and challenging ministries. A year with Manhattan Christian College prepared me in many ways for teaching. Three and a half years in Great Bend, Kansas, beginning immediately after that church experienced a terrible three-way split. Working with that congregation challenged me beyond measure as I tried to apply God's Word in ways that would heal. God blessed the efforts with nearly 90 additions and the return of many who split off from the church. In time, however, the stress got to me and I had serious allergic reactions which the stress enhanced.
Earl Heal from the Orchard Mesa Christian Church in Grand Junction came to interview us for a ministry with them. We moved to Colorado in 1973 and remained their until 1985. After a few months on Orchard Mesa, Earl, who was Intermountain Bible College's Academic Dean, began moving me into the college. I taught Church History and other classes at IBC through its best years and some of its worst and stuck with it until the college closed in 1985.
With the help of Dr. James North, I was called to Westwood-Cheviot Church of Christ where I worked with Brad Walden and Fred Speckert. The church reached its highest attendance points (about 600) during Brad's ministry. But Delores (my wife) and I missed the west and I missed teaching, so after our son graduated from high school we accepted an invitation from First Church of Christ in Boise to follow Kenneth Beckman's 37 year ministry. I was also asked to teach the history classes at Boise Bible College.
After eight years in the church and the classroom, God fulfilled one of my lifelong ambitions -- to be minister with First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio. When I graduated from college back in the "stone age," Canton was the largest Christian Church in the world with a Bible School of more than 1,000. I always joked about being the minister there, but God let me become a minister there. During my time in Canton, Dr. North also gave me opportunity to teach graduate history classes in the graduate school of Cincinnati Christian University. Once the school called Dr. Cherok, they no longer needed me but kept me in their adjunct professor list for some time.
I arrived in Canton just as that great church was beginning its turnaround. During my nine years in Canton, attendances went from just over 800 to more than 2,200. It was exciting to be part of that church's turnaround, but everyone on staff at that time acknowledges it was God who did it. In fact, none of us had ever served in a congregation of more than 300 (or so) until that time, so it certainly wasn't because of our tremendous expertise.
As I neared my 60s, I began to think I should be "put out to pastor" (pasture). So many churches were calling younger men, I thought others might consider my useful days limited. It was a depressing thought, but one many my age wrestle with. I began to think I should consider other opportunities if they came along and one did from First Christian Church in Sun City. After jumping through all the hoops, I began a ministry with them in February 2003. I immediately discovered that working in a one-generational (senior) church was both draining and fulfilling. It was fulfilling because we fell in love with the people. It was draining because it hurts to watch people you've come to love and appreciate succumb to God's specific punishment for sin--death!
It was also draining because, as one might expect, so many were locked into mid-twentieth century thinking. The church's organizational structure is overly complicated requiring a law degree to understand it and fulfill every jot and tittle. Unfortunate events that transpired over a decade ago left indelible marks on the congregation creating an atmosphere of distruct and suspicion. One individual who had been a leader has an overbearing and bullying personality and is suspicious of anyone who thinks differently than he does. The stress and pressure of dealing with his outbursts, inappropriate congregational involvement in leadership issues, and other stressors were beginning to get to me.
Then, out of the blue, I received a phone call from Christ's Church of the Valley asking if I would be interested in a position with them. You could have knocked me over with a feather! CCV is a true mega-church with attendances of over 10,000 each weekend. They wanted me to work with their Senior Adult Ministry, their Christian Life Institute (or Training U), and lead Class 300, their session promoting service and involvement. After visiting with friends and others, I decided not to take the position. A week later, a "explosion" occurred at First Christian because the individual mentioned in the previous paragraph was not asked to serve in leadership in 2006. Charges were made against the present elders, accusations leveled against them, and my stress increased. I began to wonder if God was trying to tell me something. I e-mailed friends, including some at CCV, asking them to pray for me. CCV then came back and asked me to reconsider their invitation. After attending their Class 100, we determined that we might have something to offer them and we (Delores and I) accepted. I will begin a ministry with CCV January 1.
It was not an easy decision, believe me! We wrestled long and hard with the possibilities. If I felt too old for a congregation of 2,200, would I fit into a congregation of 10,000? Well, I decided that only God knows for sure! You can put out all the fleeces in the world, but you have to make decisions based on those and many other factors. In short, you consider all the options, look for the pros and cons, then step out on faith! Just as God didn't part the water of the Jordan River until the Hebrew priests stepped into the river, God won't bless until a believer puts his trust in God and steps out.