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Try, Fail, Succeed

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:6-10 NIV)

It’s official—Creekside has our next senior pastor! As the famous saying goes, “hindsight is 20/20,” so while the process took us much longer than most of us would have preferred, looking back we can see how God worked things to match Creekside with Mark Hjelmervik.

Multiple times in my life I’ve drawn comfort from Acts 16:6-10. Even the Apostle Paul didn’t always know where God wanted him to go, but that didn’t give him license to do nothing. His responsibility was to try to do what he thought was right, while being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. In this short passage, we see Paul and his companions try to travel to two different places, only to have the Holy Spirit prevent them from doing so. Finally, Paul has a vision that he interprets to be from the Lord, and this time they are not blocked as they travel to Macedonia.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28 NIV)

The thing I love so much about these passages is that the responsibility of being right rests with God. Our responsibility is to pray, try, and be sensitive to God’s leading, and eventually he’ll work it all out for us.

Using the benefit of hindsight, we can see how God led us to Mark as our next senior pastor. Our first pastoral search took much longer than we would have liked to get to candidating weekend. As a small example of this, we had first hoped to hold our candidating weekend in September, but weren’t able to have it until November, and ultimately didn’t receive his decline until December. This timing meant we had to wait until January to reopen the search process, and due to its proximity with the Covenant Midwinter conference, Greg Yee (our Pacific Northwest Conference superintendent) recommended that we keep the position open until after the conference.

It turned out that during this period of delays, God was working in Mark’s heart to be open to applying to Creekside. Even with a willingness to apply, in our first interview with him, he expressed skepticism that it was time to leave his current church of Trinity, but he was open to God’s leading. As we progressed through the interview process, we could see how we were connecting with Mark, and how God was working in his life to move him to a place where he felt it was time to leave Trinity. Had things gone faster in our first search, Mark would likely not yet have been in a place where would have accepted a call.

All of that was a long way of saying that while the timing wasn’t what we would have chosen in our ideal world, God knows what he is doing. His timing is rarely our ideal. So when things aren’t going the way we feel they should, our duty is simply to pray, try, and be sensitive to God’s leading, and then have faith that the conclusion will be something great, even if it isn’t how, where, or when we expect.

Andrew can be reached by email here.

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