E2: Effective Elders Blog
Editor’s Note: Each Friday we publish a new blog post from our partners in ministry, E2: Effective Elders. We publish it here simultaneous to E2’s posting on their site. The leaders of E2 write an article for our print and online magazine every month as well. Those articles are full of wisdom and practical help for elders. Please check them out!
By Dick Wamsley
I was beginning my eighth year as dean of students and professor of pastoral care at Nebraska Christian College. The college was in the first phase of a leadership transition. The president and academic dean had both been there more than 30 years and were scheduled to retire at the end of that academic year. Three years earlier, I was asked by the trustees to consider accepting either of those two administrative positions, so I committed to be the academic dean. But at their September meeting, the trustees asked me to reconsider my decision and, instead, apply for the president’s position. I did not see myself as president material, which was why I did not pursue it earlier.
At that same time, I was completing coursework toward the Doctor of Ministry degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I was enrolled in the class “The Decision Making Process, Systems and the Planning Cycle.” It required me to complete a project in my ministry that applied what I had learned in the classroom. So I decided my project would be to discern the will of God for this ministry decision.
What I experienced from that project changed not only the course of my role at the college—I accepted the presidency—it awakened me to how God was just waiting to extend his grace at a time when I was focusing more on my perceived weaknesses than his grace to enable me to lead the college as its president. If I had walked away from the trustees’ challenge because I focused only on my perceived weaknesses, I would have failed to experience the grace of God.
Like me, you may have always believed that God bestows his grace at his discretion and not at our request, and in some respects that is true. But there may also be times when he expects us—in fact waits for us—to seek from him the grace he has already reserved for us.
The apostle Paul talked about God’s all-sufficient grace in 2 Corinthians. Speaking of his “thorn in the flesh,” he wrote, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9, English Standard Version). The writer of Hebrews went a step further: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV).
One action I took while seeking God’s will concerning my role with NCC was to ask three friends—all of whom knew well both me and my giftedness for ministry—to devote quality time to pray concerning the specific guidance I was seeking from God. I provided each with a list of reasons I had prepared for accepting either of the two positions. After a prescribed period of time, they were to report back to me their own conclusions as God had directed in their prayers.
Those conclusions were a key to the confidence I had in approaching God’s throne of grace for help during a critical time for me, and in making the decision to accept the call by the trustees to become the college’s fourth president. Now, some might consider that kind of approach to prayer too bold, maybe even a bit presumptuous. But I considered it “drawing near to the throne of grace,” taking action to seek God’s grace in a time of need.
When you or your group of elders are faced with making some tough decisions, instead of first seeking human resources that will help you “stand on your own two feet,” drop to your knees and seek God’s all-sufficient grace.
Dick Wamsley served as senior minister at Taylorville (Illinois) Christian Church for more than 27 years and with Nebraska Christian College for 14 years. He is retired from full-time ministry but continues to serve in interim ministries for churches in central Illinois.
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