By: Rob Lee
April 21, 2015
I was forged in the fires of the United Methodist Church, but suddenly I didn’t feel at home there.
I was only 20 years old when a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church hired me – a devoted United Methodist to serve as Assistant Minister for Youth. At that point in my life, I was certain of my place in the church. I attended General Conference as a delegate and read Wesley’s journal like other young adults read the next greatest fiction series. I was forged in the fires of the United Methodist Church, but suddenly I didn’t feel at home there. I realized my theology, my polity, my own understanding of who I was called to be, wasn’t United Methodist. It was a dark time of self-doubt, denial, and even depression. However it wasn’t anything against the people called Methodists, but as Jon Stewart said when he announced he was leaving the Daily Show, “This show deserves more than a restless host.” I felt restless staying in the denomination that I had loved for so long would be a disservice to everyone I had ever known or loved. It would affect my calling; it would damage me as a pastor, and would ultimately lead to another story of a burnout.
In my time away from the Methodists, I sojourned with the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, and ultimately found myself at home among this group of progressive Baptists. Now, two and a half years later, after discerning my next steps, I will be ordained to Christian ministry through First Baptist Church, West Jefferson (Lord willing and pending congregation approval). I can’t help but think that God has been working to help me mark this transition faithfully.
Why do I tell you all this? I speak these words as a means of grace in my life, and hopefully a way for you to mark transitions faithfully.
Life is full of transitions, some good, some not so good. But nonetheless in our vocational lives we must live into them, full of grace, full of love, and full of hope. You know it’s hard for us to admit that we are creatures of change; I’d personally prefer things to stay the same. But we can have confidence that God is working through change to bring to fruition the plans for our vocational lives and callings.
Hope is not in our own four-year plans or goals that we set up when we start a vocational journey. Hope is found in knowing that God is for us and God is with us. That gives us permission to live out our lives and figuring out whose we are and who we are called to be.
I still read Wesley like a kid in the candy store, but my identity now is Baptist and at my Baptist ordination, an Episcopal priest will preach, a United Methodist minister will celebrate communion with me, a Presbyterian campus minister will lead in worship, and a Baptist minister will lay hands on me as I am ordained. All these people have played a role in my transition from one denomination to another. Ultimately I couldn’t have lived out this part of my calling without them. So let’s celebrate transitions, mark them faithfully, and hope that through the grace of God we are living out our vocations in a healthy and fruitful way.