Of all the uses to which I have put this blog in the fifteen months I have been writing it, of all the things I have communicated in the previous one hundred thirty-three posts, what I am sharing in this post is the most difficult, most awkward, and most likely to be misinterpreted. Still, I have learned that, when an idea implants itself in my thought processes and intrudes repeatedly into my consciousness over several days, it is likely something I should heed. So, here goes.
For nearly five years, since the door closed on my fourteen years of ministry as an instructor in a small Bible college, I have been asking God to show me what new door He was opening. For a time, I thought I detected a sliver of light through a door slightly ajar. I painstakingly prepared for a ministry within the Anglican tradition. Following my ordination as a priest in May 2011, I spent a year and a half trying to force my way through a door which God was not opening, at least not at this time.
I have written much about my vision for a new church in Columbus, Ohio, near the campus of The Ohio State University. More than a year ago I located a small office for rent in Grandview Heights, the very community in which it seemed that God might be leading us to establish the new church. The circumstances surrounding my discovery of the office’s availability, along with the generosity of the people of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church in assuming the cost of renting the office for one year, led me to conclude that God was in the midst of that enterprise.
The church is not yet a reality. The office did not directly lead to an even greater presence in the community resulting in the formation of a congregation. The vision for the church still lives, but God’s timing, in that regard, is different from mine.
In the meantime, the one-year commitment by St. Augustine’s has expired, and I am continuing to pay the office rent, on a month-to-month basis, out of personal finances which, if they were a pair of blue jeans, would be embarrassingly threadbare.
Please don’t misunderstand. We are not destitute, owing partly to the munificence of one particularly generous (though far from wealthy) friend and partly to our own prudent stewardship and frugality. We live in a four-room apartment within easy walking-distance of the office where Shirley works. (That sentence alone contains a reference to at least three important areas in which God has made substantial provision for our needs.)
The problem is (and my wife assures me she is going to have those words engraved on my headstone) that our residence is some thirty miles northwest of Grandview Heights, where the office is located. When we rented the office, we fully expected that God would make it possible for us to relocate our residence to the same general area, enabling us to establish an ongoing presence in the community where we hoped to see the church planted. That would have required an infusion of financial resources which we have not experienced, and so we face a dilemma.
St. Patrick’s Church is not yet a reality, and that was the main reason we engaged the office in the first place. Still, the office, rudimentary as it is, is a great place to work. I have moved much of my library there, and I would love to liberate from a storage unit another twenty or thirty crates of books and notebooks (including all the resource material which I accumulated during those years when I taught fifteen different undergraduate courses in Bible, theology, apologetics, philosophy, etc.), but I cannot do that as long as it seems likely that I will need to vacate the office shortly for lack of resources to pay the rent.
For the first time in my life, God seems to be getting through to me with the message that He might actually want me to focus on my writing as a significant and legitimate dimension of my future ministry. Until recently, I had discounted that possibility in the genuine, if misguided, belief that anything I had to say could be said more effectively by someone else, especially someone writing out of experience more than theory. That’s why it took me so long to start writing this blog.
The number of people who read the blog, however, has been both gratifying and humbling, and nobody is more surprised by the response it has generated than I. If this is the avenue by which God wants to make use of my gifts in ministry, if this might possibly be the door which I have been praying that God would open for me, then I dare not abandon that possibility without giving it my complete and total effort. I could do that with greater efficiency, or so it seems to me, if I could more fully utilize the space available in my office.
So, here’s what I’m asking of you, and here’s why I have called this a “really, really practical post.” Would you pray that God will make it possible for me to continue to use the office—that is, to maximize its use—as a place to write, to read, to record podcasts, and, in general, to explore the fullness of the possibility which this new opportunity for ministry may afford?
I should note that I mentioned this to Arthur Lough, and he asked me to consider whether I was really asking you to pray or whether that language was simply a “spiritual” way of asking for money. Don’t you love the way he cuts through the blather and gets right to the heart of the question you also wanted to ask? 🙂
If the blog and any ebooks, curriculum, podcasts, or other resources which might eventually develop were to generate income, the ministry would have to be incorporated as a legitimate non-profit entity overseen by an independent board of trustees. At the moment, no such entity exists, and until it does, it would be imprudent for me to suggest that anyone join this effort as a financial contributor.
I have significant experience in the development and administration of just such an enterprise, but I can say to you in all honesty that I was not prompted to write this post as a way to generate support for an idea like that. I just need God’s help in paying my office rent and securing some kind of reliable transportation so that Shirley is not totally isolated out on the edge of the prairie whenever I am in the city, working at the office. I am simply making the need known and asking you to join me in praying that God will meet it.
I am first and foremost a churchman. I have served Christ and His Kingdom as a pastor as well as in parachurch endeavors like broadcasting and teaching. The church is God’s primary instrument for carrying out His purpose and accomplishing His will in the world. I still hope and pray that God will bless me with an opportunity to serve Him as part of the ministry of a local congregation. In the meantime, I need to “bloom where I am planted.”
Thank you for reading this. Thank you for your prayers. I promise to keep you posted as things develop, if they do. And as always…
Soli Deo Gloria.