I never cease to be amazed at how God gives the same direction to different people who are all seeking His heart on the same issue.
Since the early days of our marriage, Dave and I have occasionally taken independent silent retreats. Sometimes we agree that we will seek the Lord about a particular issue, and sometimes we just go with open minds and hearts to whatever He has to say to each of us. But each time, we do our separate thing, whether that is a prayer walk, solitude, journaling, or a long solo drive. Afterwards, we come back together to process how God used that time to speak to our hearts. And each and every time, we have reported the same sense or conclusion or direction.
We have had several of those incidents in the last year as we have sought God’s direction for our next steps in ministry. That is cool enough on its own. But this time, we experienced God’s confirmation from other people who felt the same leading — only, these people have been from completely different churches in different states!
In January, Dave was one of two finalists for the permanent role at our interim church here in North Carolina. Without ever discussing a specific silent retreat or question, we each prayed independently for clarity regarding our next steps. One day while I was out for a run, I felt a clear sense that I should “let Chatham go.” My stress about the unknown of the future was immediately replaced by peace because God was in control. However, I knew Dave was still very interested in the position, so I told God, “If this is your direction, then you will need to make it clear to Dave as well, because I’m not going to tell him what to do.”
The next evening as Dave and I sat on the couch, he looked at me and cautiously said, “What would you think about me pulling out of the search process at our church?” Our eyes both widened as I told him about my prayer conversation the day before. God had once again told us the same thing, without each of us influencing the other about it. While it was scary to turn down a possible job opportunity without knowing the backup plan, we were confident that it was the right thing.
Meanwhile, the search team at the church in NC was praying for clarity as well. Considering the two worthy candidates, they prayed that God would make the decision “easy” for them. At the same time, a leader in the church who was praying for the search, and who at the time hoped Dave would fill the role, prayed that Dave would be the next pastor of the church. Instead, God gave her the clear sense that she should pray for Dave, and for the next pastor of the church. In her heart she replied, “Right. I pray for Dave, who will be the next pastor of the church.” And again, God spoke to her heart: “No, you need to pray for Dave, and for the different person who will be the next pastor of this church.”
A few days before a day-long interview, Dave pulled out of that search process. While it was not what any of us involved had originally expected or perhaps hoped, it was so clearly an answer to so many prayers. The church hired the other excellent candidate, a friend of ours, and on Sunday his family was part of the church sendoff for our family. The church will be in great hands under Alex’s leadership, and we are thrilled for him and for the church.
And while all of this was going in North Carolina, a search team in Indiana was seeking God in similar fashion for a pastoral opening at their church. Again, God gave clear direction, through a variety of human and divine conversations and circumstances, that David Ward was the right person for the new position. And that is how Dave began his new position Tuesday as the Pastor of Teaching Ministries at New Hope Church in Greenwood, IN.
Over my years in ministry, I have had many experiences and stories of someone declaring, “God told me [fill in the blank].” In those situations, I always want to know: Who else is praying about this, and what are they hearing from God? I firmly believe that God will reveal the same thing to spiritually mature people who are diligently and humbly seeking His direction about a particular issue. Independent confirmation is one of the rich joys of living and leading in true community, and I am grateful for so many examples of this grace in my own life.