By Arron Chambers
Have you ever played the trust game? You know, the one where you fall back and someone catches you? If you ever belonged to a church youth group and had a youth minister who didn’t always prepare, and occasionally needed a time “filler,” you’ve certainly played it.
Yeah, I hate that game too.
When I was younger, I hung out with the kids in the youth group who thought it was funny to let the preacher’s kid keep falling till he hit the ground. Yeah, that was a fun game . . . for the kids with trustworthy friends, but not for those of us who were friends with the elders’ kids.
In life, it’s important to learn whom you can—and can’t—trust. I was taught, while still very young, that I could trust Jesus.
In Sunday school, I was taught I could trust God when facing giants, hungry lions, and fiery furnaces, which was extremely helpful until many years later when I actually found myself facing a big, hungry, fiery ordeal. And then I wasn’t quite sure what to do because the trial I was facing was bigger, scarier, and a lot hotter than it ever looked on that flannelgraph board.
It’s one thing to listen to Sunday school lessons on trust and then sing, “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,” but it’s another thing altogether to trust Jesus when things go sour and that Sunday school lesson is but a distant memory.
Which is what I learned during the greatest leadership challenge I’ve faced up to this point in my ministry.
I’ve been blessed to serve with three great churches since I became a preacher. I wouldn’t trade my experiences with these churches for anything because, in accepting the call to serve with them, in serving with them, and then in hearing God’s call to leave (the first two), I’ve learned to trust God more.
From 1996 to the summer of 2006, I served Southside Christian Church in Orlando, Florida, as youth minister and then as the preacher. It was my first preaching ministry and a complete joy. My heart still leaps with pleasure as I think of those dear people and my time with them.
In 2006, I answered a call from God to join the staff of Christ’s Church, a megachurch in Jacksonville, Florida. Answering this call required me to uproot my family and move 2 hours and 35 minutes up Interstate 4 to a new ministry in a new town. We leaned back and left Orlando with complete trust in God.
It was a very exciting opportunity with a great church, and we arrived with complete trust in God, but very shortly into this new ministry, my wife and I knew we weren’t going to be there very long. The only way we were going to move forward was to lean back, fall into God’s arms, and completely trust in him.
Have you ever had that experience? You walk through a divinely open door you know you’re supposed to walk through, only almost immediately to realize the room is just not where you’re supposed to be. It’s just uncomfortable enough that you know you’re not going to be staying for very long.
As much as we loved Christ’s Church, through some very poignant, powerful, and painful ways, God made it clear to us we were not going to stay there very long, which was extremely confusing.
Trusting God Through Confusion
In Hebrews 11, we’re reminded that “Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).
I’m not Abraham; even so, like him, I learned that callings can be confusing.
When we arrived in Jacksonville, we just knew we were going to be there for many years, so hearing God’s clear call to leave so shortly after we started there was very confusing.
We’d just bought a house.
Our kids were finally adjusted to their new schools and had made new friends.
We loved our new small group and were just starting to put down some roots in our new hometown.
We’d made some strong friendships in a short time.
I loved the staff.
We loved our new church, but we love God more and, even though we didn’t know where he was calling us to, we knew he was calling us away.
There was no performance or moral failure on my part.
There was no failure to love and support my family and me on the church’s part.
It was (and is) a good church full of good people. That being said, something just didn’t feel right, and through a series of “God things,” my wife and I knew that, even though we did not know where we were going, we were being called away.
I’ve never been so confused. Nothing about this calling made sense.
I cried out to God.
It made no sense.
Yet, through the confusion I saw God more clearly and learned I could trust him.
I saw God on a flight from Atlanta to Cincinnati when I just happened to be sitting by Paul Williams of Christian Standard (who also serves on the preaching team at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado), who just happened to tell me about Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado, which was looking for a preacher.
I saw God in a conversation with Alan Miller, a stranger at the time and an elder at Journey, who spoke healing to my heart over the phone as if he knew every detail of my confusion.
I saw God in his calling my family and me to trade ministry in a megachurch in a megatown for a new ministry with a smaller church in a smaller town (that I’d never heard of and couldn’t find on a map). I wouldn’t trade this ministry here in Greeley, Colorado (45 minutes east of Rocky Mountain National Park and 45 minutes north of Denver, if you’re looking for it on a map), for anything in the world.
Yes, I saw God in the call away from Jacksonville and to Journey Christian Church in Colorado, yet still it felt like rejection.
Trusting God Through Rejection
While on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
I’m certainly not Jesus; even so, like him, I felt rejected by both God and man.
Rejection is never fun, unless you’re being considered for jury duty.
I wanted to be in Jacksonville.
I wanted to be at Christ’s Church.
I wanted to do the work they wanted me to do.
I wanted to go where they were going, but as I learned to trust God, I learned it wasn’t about what I wanted.
I wanted God to bless my plan.
So often we hold our plans up to God and ask him to bless them, rather than holding our will up to God while asking him to bless us by revealing his will to us.
Abraham wanted to stay in Haran.
Jesus wanted not to be rejected by God.
I knew (and I know) that Christ’s Church wasn’t personally rejecting me, but I felt rejected nonetheless.
Yet, through the rejection I felt God’s desire for me more clearly as I leaned back and learned I could trust him.
I felt God’s desire for me through a meeting with a key leader of Christ’s Church, a few days before leaving Jacksonville, who spoke into my insecurities with confidence that God’s love for all involved was being reflected in the way his will was being carried out. I agreed.
I felt God’s desire for me while delivering my trial sermon at Journey Christian Church on Palm Sunday in 2008, and when Journey’s elders laid their hands on me and prayed over me during my trial visit.
I felt God’s desire for me on that Sunday in May 2010 when I preached the gospel, the Holy Spirit moved, and we baptized 52 people in a water trough on stage.
I feel God’s desire for me every day I am blessed to serve with Christ’s church here in Greeley, Colorado.
Yes, I was confused and felt rejected when God called me away from Christ’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida, to Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado. But I’m not confused and I don’t feel rejected anymore, because through my greatest leadership challenge, I learned the greatest lesson of my ministry: I learned giants can fall, you can survive a lion’s den, you’re not alone in the furnace, and it truly is so sweet to trust in Jesus.
Arron Chambers is lead minister with Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado, an author, and a contributing editor with CHRISTIAN STANDARD. He blogs at http://mylordandmyblog.wordpress.com.