There is something in the Kingdom of God and the Church called a “grace shift.” I have lived through two of them and am on the edge of my third trip through the experience. Let me explain.
When God calls a person to a specific task or ministry within the Church or the wider Kingdom, He grants grace to that person to accomplish what he has been called to do. Grace to pastor, grace to teach, grace to counsel, grace to lead worship. Whatever the call there is an accompanying grace to accomplish that call so it is done in the Spirit and not in the flesh; supernaturally and not in the natural. This grace includes an anointing on personal abilities and skills but also spiritual and supernatural gifts and wisdom. This grace also includes God’s presence and power in and on the ministry and calling.
There comes a time when a person’s calling and ministry matures and changes. As this change happens there is a “grace shift.” So, when I was moving from being a pastor-teacher and moving more and more towards apostolic ministry the grace upon my life began to shift. I was still teaching God’s Word and caring for the sheep in the local church but there was less and less life in the ministry I was doing. It was working and people were being blessed but in my own heart I was experiencing less and less life. I was going through the motions doing what I had always done and doing it well. But, I was no longer satisfied on the inside. The contentment disappeared. The joy disappeared. It was like I was missing the spark that had always been there. The life I experienced while doing the ministry within the current call was gone. The grace had shifted.
As I moved more and more into apostolic ministry – mentoring, coaching, planting churches, and helping leaders in churches in Canada and the United States as well as overseas, I once again began to personally experience God’s life again. The spark, the excitement, the enthusiasm was back. I again knew I was in the centre of God’s will for my life. I was able to ‘go with the flow’ of the Spirit and found my ‘sweet spot’ in the ministry once again. The grace had shifted and now I too had changed what I was doing and how I was doing it and came under the grace once again. The excitement for ministry returned and things began to happen confirming that the change was a God thing and the timing of the change was right.
Graham Cooke talks about this type of change in ministry. He likens it to leaving a very familiar room where you are comfortable doing what you know how to do and do it well. You are on your way to another room (ministry) which is way down there at the end of the hallway. You have to leave the first room to begin the journey to the second room. You have to let go of what you know and what you do -and do well – if you ever hope to reach the end of the hallway and enter the other room (ministry). And, as Graham states clearly, “It is hell in the hallway.” Or, in my terminology, this grace shift (moving from one room to the next, one ministry to the next) is not easy.
Well, I am currently in my third “grace shift” in my life and I admit, it is hell in the hallway. Until now I have juggled the local church ministry (leadership, preaching, administration, mentoring and vision casting) and a growing apostolic ministry (equipping, planting churches, mentoring, working with regional leaders…) and doing as good a job as time and strength allowed. And, I have worked locally and out of province and out of country … juggling these two aspects as best as I can. It is time to let go of many of the things I am doing and focus more and more on the apostolic aspect of my ministry. And, this will require a lot of changes – personally and in the ministry; changes in my mindset and the way the ministry is financed. So many adjustments and outright changes need to be made. Inner changes in my heart and mind; personal changes in my lifestyle; ministry changes regarding priorities, focus, and what I say yes to in ministry and what I simply will no longer have time to do and accomplish … narrowing the focus and becoming more and more apostolic in these latter years of my life and ministry.
This will be a summer and fall of serious rethinking what I allow to occupy my time and what fills my schedule and calendar. Exciting and challenging times ahead. And, a special thanks to Tony in Winkler who shared his heart and listened to me share my heart over a long breakfast meeting at Smitty’s Restaurant last week. Tony, God used you mightily that morning – helping me to sort through what I had not recognized as another grace shift. Thank you man of God. You blessed this old warrior in ways words cannot express.