Thoughts on Transition in Ministry

April 1st, 2017

As I reflect over forty-six years of ministry in the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, there are four things I would encourage pastors to consider:

1. Love God’s People and Preach

Too many times pastors become so concerned about their careers that they forget their call to ministry. You must understand who your “caller” is and what you are called to do. I suggest reading 1 Samuel 3:1-21 because these verses have given me some clarity over the years. I have always tried to remember what Dr. Isaac Rufus Clark told my preaching class at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia: “Preaching is a divine activity where the word of God is proclaimed or announced on a contemporary issue with an ultimate response to God’s proclamation.” God has given you a faith community that needs to be nurtured in faith, hope, and love.

2. Embrace the Wesleyan Heritage

Being Methodist brings with it a rich heritage, but too often there is a tendency to abandon our theological beliefs of scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. I appreciate other religious traditions, but I am United Methodist, and when I participate in a worship service, hymns, creeds, prayers, and rituals allow me to experience a powerful worship. Studying The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church will help you understand the history and polity of the church.

3. Have an Appreciation for Cultural and Ethical Contributions to The United Methodist Church

As an African American and a preacher’s kid, I am indebted to my parents, Rev. Vernon Lee and Mrs. Mildred L. McGee, for rearing me in a Christian environment. I thank the citizens and members of churches I’ve been fortunate to serve: Lovelady, Teague, Hearne, Sealy, Rosenburg, Hempstead, Orange, Prairie View, and Houston, Texas, for the relationships and experiences that helped to mold, shape, and nurture me. These allowed me to be a useful vessel in service to the master. Without God’s grace and mercy, my forty-six years in ministry would not have been possible. The Central Jurisdiction of The Methodist Church, Texas Conference, helped to prepare myself and other aspiring ministers—like Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr., Dr. Luther B. Felder, Dr. Lewis Jackson, Rev. Quinton Gibson Sr., Dr. Darnell Walker, and many others—for the call to ministry in The United Methodist Church. We were products of a district institute known today as “church camp” that helped us devote our lives to Christian service. Retreats, workshops, continuing education events, and seminars offered through the church are all a part of my ethical development in ministry. Remember who nurtured you personally, and appreciate the many different cultural experiences that make up The United Methodist Church.

4. Trust God! Trust God! Trust God!

This is my admonishment to those called by God. Many pastors seek to do ministry in isolation. I was guilty of this early in my ministry. Develop a think-tank, growth group, peer group, chat-n-chew group, or something else that will allow you to discuss ideas, concerns, problems, disappointments, and hurts with colleagues and friends. Trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the process.

In conclusion, be appreciative for words of encouragement, letters, notes, gifts, and relationships built over the years; for these are more valuable than money. The greatest satisfaction in my ministry has been receiving valued compliments from people whose lives I’ve touched in ministry. Trust in God.

Remember, this is God’s business. Trust him to use you as an instrument in his service of kingdom building.

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