My article for the May Crossways newsletter for St Paul’s Church Spennymoor and Whitworth Church.
Our church annual meetings are taking place later in May, and we will be looking for new churchwardens and PCC members. ‘Please send someone else’ might be your response!
I’m not a natural leader. That might surprise you – or it might not! I’ve always been quite gifted – at least at certain things (not sport or art) – but I’ve never been anything like an ‘alpha male’.
Some people start the journey towards ordination in their late teens or early twenties. I don’t think I was ready at that point. I needed a few more years to grow in maturity and confidence before I offered myself for ordained ministry.
In the Church of England, there’s quite a thorough process of ‘discernment’ before the formal training begins. For me, this basically went smoothly. I was in my thirties, and had a lot of experience in church life: preaching, leading services, and being heavily involved in Christian things more widely.
The only real ‘bump’ in the process was when I had an interview with a panel. For one reason or another, they ended up getting quite a poor impression of me. Their report came back, and although it didn’t turn me down completely, it was really very discouraging.
That evening, the readings appointed by the Church of England included a bit from Exodus, in which Moses basically has an argument with God:
Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’
The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’
But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else’ (Exodus 4:10-13, NIV).
The timing of this reading was perfect for me. I felt far from eloquent – slow of speech and tongue. But God spoke to me through that passage, and gave me the courage to carry on.
It would have been tempting to throw in the towel at that point, along with Moses: ‘Please send someone else.’ But this wasn’t the response God was looking for.
We find a better response in Isaiah 6:8. The Lord asks, ‘Whom shall I send?’ And Isaiah responds, ‘Here I am. Send me!’ Another good example is Mary: ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled’ (Luke 1:38).
None of us is called to be a Moses or an Isaiah or a Mary. But all of us are called to do things that take us out of our ‘comfort zone’. We will feel inadequate, but that is a good thing, because it forces us to put our trust in God, and not in ourselves.
It’s not a matter of leaping up and declaring that God has called you. But what God looks for is a willing spirit, ready to give it a try, and listening for God’s voice: ‘Now go; I will help you’.