We moved to Cleveland in 1984 for me to become the Minister of Education at the Westmore Church of God. I started teaching part-time at the seminary in 1985. Dr. Beaty was the Academic Dean and he asked me to teach a class each semester. In 1986 Cheryl started teaching full-time and I continued to teach one course a semester. In 1988 I left Westmore and in early 1989 we started the New Covenant Church of God as a Bible study in our home. It was a challenging time.
Cheryl’s ministry was expanding rapidly as she got involved in ecumenical dialogues and in leadership in the Society for Pentecostal Studies. I was ever mindful of God’s word to me that her ministry was my first ministry. Planting a new church in the buckle of the Bible belt is not as easy as it might seem, especially if you are driven to be faithful to your heritage and innovative in design and diverse in membership.
I became somewhat discouraged. One day I was praying for Cheryl and her various ministry involvements when God spoke to me, “I told you that your first ministry was Cheryl’s ministry. I didn’t tell you to neglect your own ministry.” I hadn’t realized I was letting my ministry slide, but I was. In all of the various stresses of my life I wasn’t giving God and the church my best. My passion for the Scriptures was waning; my love for preaching was cold; and my hunger for the salvation of the lost was weak.
This corrective word gave me a new sense of direction. I could be fully committed to Cheryl’s ministry and to mine. It was not an either/or situation it was a both/and calling. It was a simple word but it set me free. God did not desire for me to lose myself in someone else’s ministry. He intended for me to find fulfillment both in supporting Cheryl and in the full pursuit of my own calling. The result was that I once again fell in love with my ministry. I was free to do those things that gave me fulfillment.
I am thankful for this corrective word. It has made all the difference in my sense of wellbeing and fulfillment. The extent to which I have lived up to this may be debated, but I know I can be both a faithful help to my wife and a faithful servant of Christ. Indeed, both are necessary and enriching.
April 17, 2010