Written by Danny Smith, Lead Pastor of Middleton Baptist Church
Take a Chance
Give it a try.
Those words were instrumental in my call to pastoral ministry.
I remember it well. It was May, and I was seventeen. Over the autumn and winter months I increasingly sensed that God was changing my heart and calling me to something.
I confided in my cousin’s husband that I was sensing this call. He was a pastor at a church nearby and his words to me were, “Give it a try!” He invited me to preach the next month at a worship service to test out this sense of calling.
Twenty-four years later, I am still happily serving God as pastor in a local church.
I remain grateful to this day that somebody was willing to take a risk on a seventeen-year-old with such a simple phrase: “Give it a try.” It didn’t matter that I had been sensing this call for less than a year – just give it a try!
There were many other individuals and churches early in my journey who said similar words and invited me to preach at their pulpits. These, too, served as important points of confirmation along the way.
One such important point of affirmation was during my studies at Acadia Divinity College. Not only was there a high commitment to academic rigour but there was a strong emphasis on putting what I was learning into practice in a ministry setting.
Pass It On
Give it a try.
I understand the power of that simple phrase. Now, I make a point to speak those words often.
In the seventeen years I’ve served as lead pastor at Middleton Baptist Church (MBC) I have had the privilege of walking alongside many individuals as they “gave it a try.”
Many of them have received that call while part of our congregation. Others have arrived at our church because they perceived that MBC would be a safe space to develop their call.
Some have completed their Acadia Divinity College Mentored Ministry requirements with us, and a few have even stayed for the long haul and served as MBC staff. In fact, over the past 15 years, most of our permanent pastoral staff positions have been filled by someone within our own congregation or by someone with a close association to our church.
Embrace the Five Factors
As I reflect on my own call to ministry and MBC’s willingness to walk with others in their own call, I can identify five factors that I think are essential for churches and mentoring pastors to consider.
The “I See In You” Factor
Sometimes called the “I-C-N-U Factor” it’s the wisdom of a church and a pastor to identify in others a call to ministry, sometimes even before that person senses the call themselves.
It’s the ability to fan the flame of that call and it’s the desire to walk with them in discerning and preparing for it.
The Grace Factor
In my journey at MBC, I have been a beneficiary of an environment of grace. I was confident the church genuinely wanted me to succeed, and I experienced first -hand the ways the church made this possible through positive affirmation, constructive feedback, and strong leadership support.
The Risk Factor
In an environment of grace, risk becomes possible.
I love when ministry students see our church with a fresh set of eyes and say to me, “I think we should try this.” My response? “Give it a try!” Some of our greatest ministry successes in the past few decades have begun as initiatives from students who have served and been mentored in our church. The risk is always worth it.
The Kingdom Factor
For a church and a pastor to take the time, money, and energy required to invest in mentoring requires a Kingdom mindset.
The mentoring church will most likely not be the long-term beneficiary of the investment in the life of the ministry student, but the local church doesn’t exist to build its own kingdom – it exists as an instrument of God in building His Kingdom.
The Faith Factor
Churches need to create an environment where ministry students continue to develop a deeper love for Jesus and His church. They need a space to grow and develop spiritually so that they have the fortitude to lead the church that might one day be entrusted into their care.
Be Willing and Determined, Not Perfect
You do not have to be the perfect church for this to be successful. All that is required is a willingness to love and embrace someone with the fire of God’s call in their heart, and the determination that your church can make a Kingdom difference by this simple act of love and hospitality.
Few things in ministry give me greater joy than to see tiny sparks of a call in someone’s life, and then to have the privilege and joy in helping fan those sparks into flames that eventually lead that person, by God’s grace, to go out and do great things for God’s glory!