“So you’re okay with me giving up my goals and dreams to lead a church of my own and having to be a greeter at Walmart when it comes my time to retire?”
My thirteen-year old son’s reply was “I just want to keep going to my church and graduate from my school”. He started sobbing uncontrollably and as I looked up at the entrance to his room, I saw my wife, Michelle, crying as well.
i was forty-three years old and about to make a transition from twenty years of youth ministry to an executive role in our church.
But in the midst of this change, several opportunities for me to be the lead pastor of a church started coming my way. The challenge of new mountains to climb, new places to explore and new people to lead filled my heart and mind with excitement. I listened to the offers and began to dream and plan out our family’s new life adventure together.
This family crisis created a major problem for me. We were due to leave for the recruiting trip in a few hours. How was it going to look to a pastoral search committee if my entire family cried the whole weekend? I had prayed for days about the move but I had not received any clear direction from him. I had not heard a “No.” But there was no word that said, “Go,” either.
I went outside knowing that I had to make a decision that would shape the course of our family’s future. I cried out to God.
“what should i do? which road should i take?”
I knew that the choice I would make about being a lead pastor or continuing to serve as an armor-bearer to my boss would determine not only my spiritual legacy, but also the legacy for my wife and my children.
I prayed for an hour and a half. Ten minutes were left before we had to depart for the airport. I know when the Lord speaks to me. Jesus says in John 10:4 that his followers should “Know his voice.” But on this day there was nothing from him.
i was seemingly on my own in deciding which road to take.
Michelle and I had made two previous moves early in our marriage to pursue God’s call on our lives, but on both occasions I had received clear instruction from the Lord. This time it was like God was saying, “Tim, it’s up to you.” It was clear to me which road I wanted to take, but which road was the best?
in 49 B.C. julius caesar was returning to rome with his conquering army.
Roman generals were only allowed to lead an army in certain areas of their empire, and the shallow, fifty mile long Rubicon River was the boundary by which a general would have to disband his army and complete the trip to Rome as a private citizen.
Caesar spent the night dining with his military commanders and there he coined the phrase, “The die is cast.” The next morning he got up and took his army across the river. When he committed to this decision he was breaking Roman law, placing himself in opposition to the Roman Senate and starting a civil war. “Crossing the Rubicon” is the “point of no return.” There was no turning back for Julius Caesar when he set his feet on the other side of that river. The rest, as we say, is history.
that is how i felt on that day in my backyard. no matter which choice i made there was no turning back.
If I said no to these opportunities at this stage of my life then I was most likely permanently forfeiting any chance to lead a church of significant size and influence. If I waited another five to ten years then my age window of visionary leadership would have passed. I had reached the Rubicon River, the place of no return, for my own personal dreams and goals.
finally, i made a decision.
I decided to go against the dream of more independence, more power and more money. I walked back into the house, called the other church and told them we were not coming.
my decision to remain in my home church in a serving position has been more rewarding that I would have ever thought possible.
My experience, as well as looking at the lives of great servant-leaders like Joseph and Daniel have taught me that leadership is not just about being in charge. My youth pastor and executive assignments for the last twenty-five years has helped me realize that God’s call of duty for his followers often is in conflict with the wisdom of our American culture.
Would everything have been okay if I had pursued my own dreams? I do not think I will ever know the answer to that question. Absent a clear word from the Lord, I was not willing to put my legacy at risk. I do know that my wife and I have enjoyed twenty-seven years of an incredible marriage and my young adult children are all faithfully serving the Lord and pursuing their own ministry call.
My final word of encouragement comes from Luke 17:7-10
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
a true leader is always willing to serve and to do whatever duty that the Lord assigns to him or her. i took the “road less traveled and it has made all the difference.”