On Friday, March 24, 2006, God called me to enter ministry. It has been an adventure ever since that day. I don’t share the story of my call to ministry often, for a variety of reasons. But, I was planning to share my story on March 24, 2013. Since that day is Palm Sunday, I am led to share it now. I mentioned recently that this lenten season has been full of revelations. Lately, I have been noticing that if a person’s ministry is “unconventional” people do not take the person or the ministry seriously. I place unconventional in quotes because, just because people label it unconventional, does not necessarily mean that the ministry is in fact unconventional. That’s the lawyer in me. People will say, “God wouldn’t tell him/her to do that” as if they have information about ALL that God would and would not do. But, as my husband, who is also a preacher, has been reminding folks recently, including me, “God doesn’t have to run something by you, for your approval before God does a thing.” So, I share my story today for many reasons, most important of which is to encourage my colleagues who have “unconventional” ministries. At some point in the not too distant past, being a woman, called by God to minister, preach and teach in the Kingdom was unconventional.
I got saved in November 2000. At that time, I was a full-time day student in my first semester of law school dealing with Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Torts and Legal Research and Writing. Because parking was at a premium, I would get to school around 8:30 a.m. even though I did not have class until 10:00 a.m. I would study until class began, go to my class, take a lunch break, go to another class, take a dinner break, and go to the library until midnight, which was closing time. I would go home and sleep, get up and do it all again the next day. My weekends consisted of living in the library. It was a lonely existence, to say the least. In October 2000, my best friend moved to Atlanta. More isolation. God has a fantastic way of getting our attention. When we think that we have no one, God reminds us that God is always with us and God is all we need. So, on Sunday, November 19, 2000, my sister invited me to attend church with her. My son was at his father’s house, so I had no excuses not to attend church. The message was definitely for me. I don’t know who else it was for, but the message was directed at me. I thank God for that day.
Between law school studies, bar exam prep and working at a law firm full-time after graduation, my relationship with God was nonexistent. As I look back to those times, I can see God getting me through despite our lack of relationship. In January 2005, I began a plan of reading the Bible in one year. I had a basic knowledge of the Bible because I had attended Sunday School as a little girl. During this study time in 2005, however, I learned so much about the biblical figures and God’s promises for me. I was so excited about what I was learning that I actually finished the schedule a few days before the end of the year because I read ahead of the timetable.
In January 2006, I wanted to take classes to learn more about the Bible. I wanted to experience more depth than what Bible Study was offering. I did some research and thought about being a Community Fellow at Drew University Theological School. Community Fellows attend classes on an audit basis for a small fee. I thought that participating in the Community Fellows program would give me the intellectual stimulation that I was seeking. One of the ministers at church knew what I was contemplating and introduced me to a member who was a Master of Divinity student at Drew. That member invited me to attend her New Testament class on Friday, March 24, 2006.
During that class, God spoke clearly to me. “Get a degree. Use your degree for teaching.” I was excited and determined. After the class ended, I walked to the admissions office and picked up an application. Although I am an introvert, I could handle this assignment because, in my mind, I saw myself as a Sunday School Teacher or Bible Study Teacher with a small audience. Although I am a litigator, I don’t want to speak in public more than is necessary. Nevertheless, I applied to the Master of Theological Studies degree program and was accepted. I began at Drew in the Fall of 2006 and took two evening classes. That, however, is not the end of the story.
On Sunday, December 3, 2006, during a powerful worship service, God called me again with another assignment. God said, “Feed my sheep.” This time I responded. I said, “I’m not a preacher.” God said, “You are what I say you are.” I didn’t accept this assignment with excitement. In fact, that night while at home, I cried like a baby. I didn’t want to do it. I prayed and asked God, “Why?” Crickets. No response. So, I got up off my knees and sent an email to the director of admissions requesting an appointment so that I could talk with him about entering the Master of Divinity degree program. The change was quick and painless. By the Spring of 2007, I was working towards my Master of Divinity degree. Seminary was a lot to juggle, in addition to working full time. Also, the Master of Theological Studies program was 48 credits (16 classes), but the Master of Divinity programs was 84 credits (28 classes). My expectation had been changed. I received my degree in May 2010. I could not have earned my degree without strength from God. No way.
Outside of the classroom, my ministry has been met with resistance. I have met ministers, both men and women, who have been supportive and well-meaning. They pray for me and I pray for them. For those relationships, I am grateful. I have encountered other ministers, however, who are threatened by the ministry that God has assigned to me. Consequently, those ministers are not receptive to “unconventional” ways to do ministry. For example, there are some ministers who would frown upon me writing the My Faith and Fitness blog, despite the fact that this assignment came directly from God during prayer. That is a story for another day. Ministers must reach the people where they are, with the tools that are available and with the skills, talents and abilities given to them from God. There are some in ministry who look at me sideways when I mention sanctification or living a holy life, despite the fact that holiness is mentioned in the Bible. “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16 (KJV).
There is so much more, but not enough time or space. I share my story because someone needed to know that God is not going to operate the way you want God to operate. I share my story because, in hindsight, I could see the progression of my life up to the time that called me in March 2006. I share my story because my call in December 2006 hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t see it coming and I didn’t want it. Now, I am at the point where I plan to be ready for the next assignment…whatever that assignment is. Prayer, fasting and studying God’s Word help me to be ready.
I say all that to say that I just want to encourage my colleagues with “unconventional” ministries to stay focused on the assignments that God has given you. “Be strong and of a good courage.” Joshua 1:6 (KJV) For my brothers and sisters who think that God is leading you to a life in ministry, stay in prayer so that you can discern the voice of God. There’s a lot of noise out here. Stay encouraged. Be blessed.