Called by a gracious God who goes with us
Walking through central London considering if I should or should not apply for the promotion my boss spoke with me about, I received, what I call, a slap on the face from God, within which I sensed that God was saying to me that I should not be applying for this promoted post, but that I should be applying to be a minister in the Church of Scotland. What had pharmaceutical sales to do with ministry? What did management have to do with ministry? Surely God was mistaken?
However, following this sense of call, some twenty years later it seems that God had been equipping me through all of my business career to minister within the difficult transitions His Church was going to be facing. Listening. Discerning. Planning. Leading. Resilience. And strength. Skills gained through training, or gifts of character enriched by the power of God’s Holy Spirit? One gift that I lacked, however, was humility; you don’t need that in sales! But, soon, God provided the remedy; and it was not something that I expected.
With a young family, leaving a comfortable life to return to studies, God turned the tables and, with my wife recognising she couldn’t work more than 2 and half days a week to support me and our young sons, the very next day Lesley received a call from a primary school offering her a teaching post for two and half days per week. We cried. This has been God’s way with us ever since. When we didn’t know how to handle change and had to completely trust in the Lord, as a family, we followed Jesus into the unknown. And God has consistently provided.
Being a west-coast boy, it was unnerving entering a first charge in Perthshire; somewhere I had never been before. However, God’s wisdom led us to two encouraging congregations who recognised the need to look to the future, as it was obvious that society and church-presence, together with church-attendance, were shifting. As a people, we felt called to pray, to build relationships with our parishioners, to open our church doors and to plan for new ways of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As one of the elders commented, ‘when you let the Holy Spirit out you cannot put Him back’: in other words, we need to be prepared for what may happen. And what happened was empowering. Gifts and skills that individuals never realised they had were identified, encouraged, and used with joy. Relationships were established and bridges were built where, previously, small groups had fought to survive. And while not everything was perfect, God is gracious and forgiving and, overall, an open ministry of hospitality and caring was exercised by both congregations which enhanced opportunities for all people to live their lives to the full. Through the years the sphere of church and community blended as everyone ‘did their bit’ to live their faith in public.
Today, the Church is going through, what many may call, a time of crisis. But this is part of our faith journey and God is with us. The story of the church is not dissimilar to the story of global warming. We know that the world is different; we recognise the need to change; but we are reticent to do anything. And then the wind blows, the Holy Spirit uproots us, fires happen in different communities, and we clamber to find our way. However, God has equipped His people for change. The message of Jesus Christ is the same today as it has always been. Hope is found in our Saviour; we just need to embrace that message and share it in relevant and engaging ways. As we each play our part, who knows what the future will bring? The Lord!
by Graham McWilliams