Kimberly MacNeill: Persistent Pursuit

July 29th, 2013

Kimberly MacNeill is a regular contributor to Ministry Matters. She writes about worship and spiritual formation with a passion for teaching others about the love of Jesus Christ.

When did you feel called to ministry? Who have been the people who confirmed your call to ministry?

Originally from Pennsylvania, I became a Christian at the age of thirteen. I was not raised in a culture where people talked about ministry callings except for a couple guys who were going to be pastors. So, I never really thought about it for myself. In college I was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, and within that context, I heard more about the calling to full time vocational ministry. I began to sense that maybe I did have a calling like that on my life and upon graduation I felt sure of it, but the timing did not seem right. So, I proceeded with my degree in hand and moved to Virginia to become a high school English teacher, and planned on a ministry within my profession. Two years in, the church across the street heard about the “teacher who loved Jesus” and invited me on staff part time as the Youth Minister. After two years of doing both jobs, the time came for the “full-time venture” and I was hired as a Student Evangelism Consultant in California. I traveled, speaking to students, teaching them how to have a personal ministry within their school and family contexts. Through this experience my calling to the ministry was affirmed. First, it was affirmed on the inside. I knew it my heart of hearts this is what I was made to do. Second, it was affirmed on the outside. Meaning, there were people along the way who affirmed my calling by investing in me and giving me opportunities. In college it was my Campus Directors, Marc and Patti Rutter. It was Pastor Kevin Moen who gave me my first vocational opportunity to work at the church in Virginia. Jim Akins and Tim Gentry were the ministry leaders in California and they supported and trained me. But, the most significant affirmation came from Pastor Steve Davidson of my home church, Clovis Hills Community Church in California. He was the one who licensed me to the gospel ministry (meaning, I was recognized as a minister in both church and state) and made a space for me to serve to the fullest extent of my gifts. He was both my mentor and my teammate. I am eternally grateful for these people who made a way for me.

Was there ever a time you questioned your call, and how was your faith in Christ strengthened?

I questioned my call every time someone else questioned my call. My family was worried about me going into ministry because of the financial aspect, and they questioned my call. Therefore, I questioned it. Friends thought I might not get married like a “normal” person and they questioned my call. And then, so would I. My co-workers at the school where I taught believed I had a tremendous career in education ahead of me and that I should not give that up—questioning my call. Me, too. And every time – every time - I had to go back to my foundational roots in Christ, back to His Word, leaning into prayer, re-assessing my passions and my heart, going back to what I know I know I know—and I knew I needed to do what God was calling me to do. What He wanted mattered most. What would please His heart mattered most. Every time the bottom line was this: God knows everything past, present, and future; God knows me better than I know myself: and God knows best. He is the trustworthy One every time.

You recently moved with your husband to Nashville, and left a thriving church ministry in California. What did you enjoy most about the ministry at Clovis Hills?

First, I loved seeing people who were far from God come near to Him and discover his love and forgiveness. Our church had a value of Open Acceptance: we cared more about where people were going than where they had been. Because of that value, we saw many, many people walk through the doors who would never have even given God a try. Their lives were changed! That was the kind of church ministry I wanted to be part of.

Second, I loved seeing people get involved in ministry. People who never thought they were worthy or talented enough to serve God found themselves taking steps of faith to make an eternal difference in the world. In terms of my work personally, my favorite thing was to create worship gatherings that told great stories of life change and faith. Every opportunity to creatively weave the music, spoken word and art together was the ultimate “high” for me!

What are you discerning about the ministry God is calling you to now? What is God up to in your life?

Recently, my husband and I moved to Nashville for his new ministry position. It has been an exciting time! But, the truth is that I am currently perplexed as to what God is doing in my life. I know I needed a time of rest, and that is what I am doing mostly. At the same time, I am trying not to be lazy! Before I moved to Nashville, people who knew me used to always ask me when I was going to write a book. That thought was totally off the grid—who had time to write a book?!! Well….now, I have plenty of time to write a book. So, that is what I am attempting to do. Pray for me!

But even with this project, this has been a season of struggling with my call to ministry. Before, in CA, I knew what I was to do in living out my calling. Now, the canvas is blank. I thought that was going to be a good thing, but in fact it has raised more questions for me. But, I am finding my faith in Christ is being strengthened. First, I am aware of some basic flaws in my thinking regarding God in my life. It is hard to explain, but I think I am in process of rediscovering His love for me. Secondly, God is firming up in me things that are really important to Him. Being with Him, loving Him, loving His Word, trusting Him fully, etc… and letting other things go; it is a time to sift out what really matters to the heart of God and hold on to those things tighter. Other stuff that seems important, but isn’t…. I’m learning to let those things go.

What do you do for fun, on your day off, for Sabbath? What practices do you have to keep your life balanced?

When I was working full time in ministry, my life was not always balanced. I have a driven personality and always score as an overachiever on those personality tests! So, I did not always slow down as I should. So, here is what I learned and practiced over time: One, I had to learn to schedule my yearly vacation times. I can’t just say I’ll take vacation when “things slow down.” Listen—things never slow down, really. So, I choose my times best I can and I get it on the calendar. Two, my husband and I aim for one Sabbath day weekly. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens more often than if we didn’t seek it. It is a day when we stay home, eat food I've already prepared in advance, and we rest. Reading, napping, take a walk. No house projects, no problem solving, no planning on that day. Lastly, three times a year if needed, I might take a two-day solitude time away from home. Usually immersed in the beauty of nature, I read contemplative literature that inspires my faith, listen to music that gives words to the state of my soul, pray, and sleep as much as necessary to feel rested. And no television.

For fun, I enjoy concerts and crafts. The concerts have to be someone I really want to see—I want to sing along! For crafts, I am switching it up all the time!

In addition to the Bible, what book has been most formative for your spiritual growth?

The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford. This book changed how I viewed and therefore, lived life. It talks about discerning God’s presence in everything. I love this book! It changed me.

What are you dying to tell the Ministry Matters audience about yourself that I didn’t ask?

For those who read I would say to you, simply—ministry matters. Your ministry matters. From the perspective of reflection, I can remember there were so many times that I wasn’t sure of that. The days when things just weren’t working out. A church event was not well attended. The constant criticism from people was heavy. The days I compared what I was doing to what a peer was doing down the street and felt lacking. The days when someone I had watched come to the Lord, walked away from the Lord. But, now, seeing it as a “whole picture” and hearing from those I served with and ministered to—you know what? It really, really mattered. God made it all count for His glory. He did use me! And He will continue to do so. Same for you.

Kimberly is a regular contributor to Ministry Matters, visit her author page.

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