I’ll never forget the look of shock in their eyes, followed by a look of frustration and anger as they stormed out of the worship service. I had just announced to my church plant that I was pregnant and a couple that had been visiting the church for the first time with some friends were not happy with my news. When asked why they stormed out, they told their friends, “It was hard enough for us to accept the fact that she is a woman pastor, and now we have to accept a pregnant pastor!?! It was just too much for us.” While most people at the church celebrated this joyous news with me, the response of this couple was a reminder that motherhood and ministry can be a hard combination.
But, let’s be honest, ministry is hard on all of us: it doesn’t matter if you are single, married, divorced, widowed or something in between. We all struggle with living out our calling in a world that can sometimes see our gender before our journey. When I start to question my call into ministry, I remember my favorite Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was a prophet in the 7th century when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and God’s people were carted off into exile. Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet” who suffered a lot of persecution as he shared God’s word with the people. In Jeremiah 20:9 he says, “If I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” The Apostle Paul shares something similar in 1 Corinthians 9:16 where he cries out, “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach.”
The word “compel” in Greek is ἐπίκειμαι which can mean to physically lay something on someone or it can be used figuratively to describe the pressure of a violent storm.
These Scripture verses resonate with me when I think about my own call to ministry. Believe me, if I could do anything else with my life, I would! Having a child during the first year of my church plant while my husband was in full-time ministry at another church nearby was both exhausting and overwhelming, especially when our church trailer was stolen in my last trimester and we had to replace everything that was lost! People continued to question whether or not a woman would be called to lead one of the fastest growing United Methodist church plants in our state and when they questioned me I told them that the only time I felt true peace, abiding joy, and deep passion was when I was faithful to my call. Preaching was an opportunity to release this fire shut up in my bones and the long days of ministry with a baby in my arms was possible because I was compelled to keep going like the violent winds of storm.
The Holy Spirit who put me in this place, was going to give me what I needed to be faithful to my calling. It wasn’t always easy but being obedient to what I knew God wanted me to do kept me going. I was blessed to have a husband who was my greatest supporter and a church full of incredible people who loved the fact that I was both a mother and minister.
So what are you compelled to do? Here’s a hint, if it’s something that seems really easy, doesn’t require any type of sacrifice and doesn’t scare you at all; you might need to think again. When God compels us to do something, it is hard and holy work. At the end of the day, it’s possible because of the power of the Holy Spirit and the foundation of God’s gospel of love. As I approached the end of my maternity leave after having my baby girl the week after Easter, it was hard to think about juggling motherhood and ministry again. But as I went around town and met young moms in play groups and other families in the park, I realized that there were still so many people right in my neighborhood who did not know the transformational love of Jesus Christ and God had called me, a young and inexperienced church planter to share the good news of the gospel with them.
In the next year, our church plant would start a missional preschool where scholarships were given to make a Christian preschool education available in our community. That year we baptized multiple families into the life of the church as we continued to share God’s love with anyone that we met. Even ten years later, I’m still compelled to share this glorious news of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Our world is in the midst of a global pandemic and people are suffering from terrible and tragic loss. Is God compelling you to reach out in some way? May you lean into the power of the Holy Spirit and be faithful to the call, wherever it may lead you. May you know that the God who called you will not abandon you on the journey and that you have friends, like me, praying for you and here to encourage you along the way!
United Methodist Church Path 1
Director of Recruiting, Assessing and Training for Community Engagement and Church Planting