GOD CALLS AND WE RESPOND
Back in the summer of 2000, Cindy and I were serving at First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. We had been contacted by several pastor search committees in recent months – but we both sensed God’s direction for us was to remain in Huntsville. We were contacted by the search committee from First Baptist Church of Arlington, Texas. At first, we were hesitant to even begin the conversation. In fact, I didn’t at first. I simply turned down the opportunity to dialogue any further. However, we made a commitment when we entered the ministry that we would go wherever and whenever God lead us. He has always used other people in our lives to lead us to places of service. So, I finally agreed to send a video of a sermon to the committee in Arlington (Wow – technology has changed, hasn’t it???).
We had a meeting with representatives from the committee in the fall of 2000. The conversation escalated quickly as we felt an immediate connection to them – and they sensed it as well. After much prayer and conversation, we agreed to cautiously proceed to further exploration of a possible move to Arlington. We both sensed God was working – however, we felt a strong pull to remain in Huntsville because of several factors. One of which was our daughter’s stage in life. We wondered if it was right to move her. Needless to say, Cindy and I prayed and talked quite a bit as we considered this possibility.
The search committee brought us to Arlington to visit the church and see the community. It was just prior to Christmas. We had great meetings with the members of the committee and we were given a perspective of Arlington and the church that can only be ascertained by an actual visit. It was really good.
However, on the way home, Cindy and I began to talk about the challenges of making a move at that particular time in our lives. I could feel the energy that we had sensed in the past few days draining away. By the time we returned home, we were resigned to the conclusion that we just couldn’t leave Huntsville. However, we agreed to take some time to just pray independently about it. We needed to get through Christmas both from a family perspective and a church perspective.
We took a family vacation at New Year’s to a beautiful place in New Mexico to ski for a few days. While we were there. I wrote the pastor search committee our “official” letter of refusal. We were going to stay in Huntsville. We just couldn’t see how we could leave just yet.
About a month passed, and I received a certified letter from the search committee in Arlington. The committee asked us to officially reconsider our decision. Dr. Russell Dilday, Dr. Paul Powell and Jim Burgin (Tillie’s son and I were in the PhD program in seminary together and had been friends for years) all called me and asked me to reconsider.
So – the journey began again for us. Cindy and I prayed, talked and considered our options. Cindy was pretty adamant that we had already decided. She was weary of conversations with committees! She felt like we needed to “get on with our lives.” I agreed. I flew to Dallas alone to attend a conference in the metroplex. I agreed to meet with the search committee one more time to discuss the situation. We met at a restaurant in a hotel at DFW airport. It was a great meeting. It was so good to see the committee members face-to-face again. I had bonded with them the last time we had been together. We renewed our relationship and enjoyed a meal together. I hated to give them the news – we had decided to stay in Huntsville. They were very gracious and thanked me for our time with them. We prayed and parted ways. That was February of 2001.
One night in early March, I was in my study at home and Cindy walked in with a serious look on her face. She was on a 40-day prayer and fasting journey. She said, “I need to tell you that I don’t think I ever really gave FBC Arlington a chance in my heart.” I responded by saying, “I know that. But, we are past that now and we are moving forward.” She said, “God has convicted me about it. I want us to pray right now together. He is leading me to pray with you about it.” Of course, I said, “OK.”
We knelt down in my study and prayed together. Cindy said, “God is leading me to tell Him that if FBC Arlington contacts us again, we are going to take that as a sign from Him that we are supposed to go. If we hear from them again, we will explore it more deeply with them and we will move forward with the process.” I was taken aback, to say the least. In fact, I laughed. I said, “Honey, they are not going to call us. We have turned them down several times!” She said, “I know – but I want you to join me in this prayer. I know God is leading me to this prayer of submission.”
My wife is a very spiritual person. God speaks to her in powerful ways. I have learned to trust that over the years. So – I recognized this was the voice of God speaking. We knelt and prayed. And cried. And prayed.
We were leaving the last week of May to spend 2 weeks in Africa and then travel to England for 4 weeks for our sabbatical. We had a busy spring as our daughter was graduating from Middle School and preparing to enter High School. She made the High School cheerleading squad and she made the basketball team. She was excited about beginning her freshman year in the fall. Our church was heavily invested in our work in Africa and we had been busily preparing for our work there.
I was in my office at the church on the last Wednesday in May. My assistant walked in and said, “Tom Myers in on the phone for you.” Tom was the chair of the search committee of FBC Arlington. She knew who he was because I had shared the story with her. I said, “Don’t worry. He is calling to tell me that they have finally found a pastor in Arlington. It is protocol for him to call me.” In a few seconds, I heard Tom’s familiar voice on the line. It sounded good. I wasn’t prepared for what he shared. He said the committee was unanimous in contacting us one more time before we left the country for our sabbatical. He wanted to know – would we reconsider one more time?
Almost 3 month had passed since that night in my study at home. I told Tom about our prayer. I told him I needed to go talk with Cindy. He and I cried on the phone together. I hung up and immediately went to see my wife. We talked and cried together. We believed with everything in us that God had spoken. We prayed and surrendered our will to God’s will.
It still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. It was a call from God in our lives that required a response. We needed God’s strength to carry through. We needed His boldness to fulfill it. We needed His help as a family to make it a reality. He provided in immeasurable ways.
The point is – God calls and we respond!