Doors unexpectedly close now and then. For example, my job was eliminated at the end of June. Yes, that means I am officially unemployed, although the outplacement agency says I should say I am in a transition period. The funny thing is that it was an unexpected answer to prayer. I was reasonably happy with my job, it more than provided for our needs, and I was able to work from the house most of the time. Permit me to share some of my story briefly.
As an aside, the Lord generally gives us multiple invitations to partner with him (open doors), but there is often one of these paths that specifically resonates with our heart where we joyfully want to obey and serve.
I started my career after seminary serving a wonderful church in the Midlands of England. The task my wife, Cindy, and I accepted was to revitalize an existing church. When we first went as newlyweds, completely incompetent for the work, but soon realized that the Lord had plans to completely transform us as well as the church. We returned to the US eight years later. For a wide variety of reasons, that all belong in another story, I did not return to a ministry position. I worked as a project manager for a few years, but have spent over 20 years as a training consultant in both a manufacturing and corporate environment.
While I have not always enjoyed my assignments, each one taught me a great deal about training design, delivery, maturity models, and measurement. As I learned more I realized how we in the church rarely provide effective training to Jesus’ disciples.
Here’s how I learned my job was being eliminated. I was leading a global project that implemented software that enabled the company to deliver and report on training courses, including ones required by various governments around the world. It was early March, and we were half way through phase one of the project. We were in the middle of a few days filled with meetings, the kind where you have to order in lunch for the team. On Monday, March 9, my manager asked me to meet with her at 5:00 PM the next day. I thought nothing of it, and invited her to join us for lunch as we had plenty of food, saying we could talk while we ate. She insisted that we meet at 5:00 on Tuesday, and I was too busy for the penny to drop, as the phrase goes.
My suspicions raised when another trainer in the company emailed me from his home address that afternoon letting me know he would not be able to complete the portion of the project he was working on for me since he had been laid off at noon. That was when I started to wonder what the 5:00 PM meeting was about.
At 5:00 PM on Tuesday I went to the second floor of the office to meet with my manager. You may have already guessed, that is when she let me know that many jobs across the company were eliminated, and my job was one of them. She actually told me my job was being eliminated because the company needed my salary for more strategic positions for which they had no budget.
I knew the company had a practice of eliminating jobs in order to free up money to hire people for more important jobs, but I never imagined my job would be one of them. Interestingly, even though they told me on March 10 that my job was being eliminated, my job was actually not ending until June 30, because the project I was leading was too important to release me until then.
My prayer and effort turned to leaving with integrity, and seeking guidance for the next step. During the nine years I worked with this employer I partnered with many wonderful and gifted people, I respected the company (for the most part), and I knew the business reality behind the elimination of my job. I also received a few months’ pay as severance, a luxury not available to everyone.
The reason this was an answer to prayer for me is that I have had a growing desire to return to a ministry position. Working a full time professional job required more than 40 hours each week. I desire to serve my local church, and the Lord’s larger church, in more ways than my discretionary time permitted.
For many years I have been burdened to promote and train Christians on maturity in Christ, and to help churches understand and practice training more effectively. I don’t at all mean I completely understand this, but pursuing maturity in Christ and helping others do the same is one of the deepest passions of my life. Over the years I have gained the experience of serving the Lord in a full-time ministry capacity, of serving as a lay leader, of teaching adult Christians for years, of learning the intricacies of teaching skills and competencies in a business environment, of assisting with the leadership of a couple national conferences, but I was always hamstrung because I was in a full time job. Now, as another aside, our full time jobs are as much our ministry as those paid Christian jobs.
A number of years ago I established Yoke Ministries to provide Spiritual Formation-focused Bible studies, but I was still unable to work with churches and mission groups in crafting learning plans and more because I worked a full time job with limited vacation.
Cindy and I had been praying about this and had decided this was something I would begin doing when she retired from the local school system, but my desire to enter this ministry continued to build. Many friends joined us in this prayer, and I reminded myself to be patient waiting on the Lord. I never expected my job would be eliminated, but it came in a way and at a time that I welcomed the door slamming in my face.
By this point of our conversation, I imagine you have a good idea of the new door through which I’m walking. I will focus my efforts on helping churches align their training with the Lord’s purposes, design their training so that it is locally applicable, understand how to deliver training, and enhance the existing library of Bible study materials already available. I may take on some other work as well, but that all depends on which specific doors continue to open. The Lord has already given me some miraculous encounters with others who may well become partners in ministry.
Look in the very near future for an announcement from me of a new business that will assist churches in the first world who can afford to pay, as well as details of my affiliation with an incredible mission agency through which I will deliver this ministry to churches and mission groups who cannot afford to pay for services.
I am incredibly excited about the doors the Lord has already opened, thankful that both Cindy and I have peace from the Lord as we walk through these doors, and I look forward to sharing announcements with you in the very near future.
I value your prayers that I will remain faithful and serve as the Lord directs.