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The Major Life Decision That Put My Theology to the Test

It’s always a little easier to help others live the Christian life than to live it myself. It is easy enough to tell others how to face temptation when that particular sin has no hold on me. It is easy for me, a married guy, to give instruction on how to live the single life. And, as I recently discovered, it is easy to tell others how to make decisions when I’m not the one who is facing the life-altering choice. But then, a few weeks ago, I had to make a decision that would impact my life, my family, and my church. It was grueling and it put my theology to the test.

For the past five years, my time and attention has been divided between writing and serving as associate pastor at Grace Fellowship Church. I love to do both of these things and have wanted to give them each my full-out effort. For several years I was able to maintain that balance and still have lots of time to be a husband and father. But over the past couple of years both the church and my web site have grown substantially. I came to the growing realization that I was no longer giving the best of my time and attention to either one. At least, not unless I was willing to steal it from my family.

I consulted with friends, Aileen and the kids, and my fellow elders at Grace Fellowship Church. We thought a lot and prayed a lot. And together we decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign my full-time position as associate pastor so I could dedicate the bulk of my attention to this web site and to writing projects. My resignation was effective as of September 30. To be clear, there is no scandal or sin that pushed me here. I am still a pastor/elder at Grace Fellowship Church; it’s just that I am now doing this on a volunteer basis instead of being on staff. (Paul Martin, the senior pastor at GFC, provides his perspective here: About that Tim Challies Guy.)

On the one hand, this was a straightforward decision. I was beginning to crumble under the weight of all my responsibilities and even seeing my health start to suffer. But on the other hand, it was grueling because I have such affection for pastoring and, even more, for the people I pastor and the people I pastor with. I wanted desperately to find a solution that would allow me to give equal time to both of the things I love to do. But, try as I might, I couldn’t come up with one.

I have often written and taught on how to know and do the will of God. (See, for example, Why Making Decisions Is So Hard.) This situation represented the first time in quite a while when I had to make a major, life-altering decision. I found myself surprised by the difficulty. I know how to do it by the book: I followed the process and came to a decision—a good decision, I think. But I didn’t love it. I had to push myself to believe that this is all God requires of me–to seek his revealed will and to then live boldly, with confidence in him.

I resigned from Grace Fellowship Church with a nagging sense of failure. I have seen others succeed at local church and wider ministry. Why couldn’t I? I resigned with a frustrating lack of clarity. I wanted to have more facts at my disposal, and especially more facts about what the future holds. I resigned with more than a little regret, regretting my inability and limitations.

But I also resigned with conviction and excitement. I am coming up on 12 years of daily blogging and in all that time have never been able to do it on more than a part-time basis. In the early days I was a full-time network administrator, then a full-time web developer, then a full-time pastor. October 1 represented the very first day I have ever been able to give my writing the absolute best of my time and attention. And, between you and me, it felt great.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but as the saying goes, I do know the one who holds the future. And I look forward to learning what he has for me.

Now, before I close out this little article, I want to express my gratitude to you. Thank you for reading this site. Thank you for making it a part of your day. I thank God for you and hope to be able to serve you well in the days and years to come. I do not plan to make any major changes in the near future. I do not plan to write a whole lot more. But I do hope that this increased time will allow me to write deeper and better.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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