In the summer of 2006 my family and I set off on a journey back to where we grew up in Houston. The good people of St. Mark Lutheran Church & School had Called me to be the senior pastor, working with them for the Lord, His people, and those not-yet His people.
When I was installed, I was blessed to have the pastor who confirmed me and also joined Jennifer and I in marriage; The Rev. John Fritz (ret., Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston), preach God’s Word in the message for the day. The Scripture he preached on was from the gospel of John:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” ~John 3:30
The passage discusses how Jesus and John the Baptist were both baptizing within sight of each other. Of John the Baptist’s disciples, it is said,
“And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.’ ” ~John 3:26
I don’t know about you, but that appears to be a question founded in jealousy; a kind of “my dad can beat up your dad” type of thing.
In any event, Pastor Fritz wanted to make sure I understood the lesson of humility and that I must always decrease and Jesus increase with me and with the people I was Called to serve at St. Mark.
I have always attempted to keep that in mind and operate with that mindset and humility, though I know I have often failed miserably!
Other Scriptures I have tried to keep in the forefront of my mind and actions is from the book of Colossians:
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father…Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember…that the Master you are serving is Christ.” ~Colossians 3:17, 23, 24b
The Lord has shown that there are some gifts and passions I possess which are not fully in line with what is needed of the senior pastor at St. Mark. At the same time, He has also made it clear over the years that the people of St. Mark need to love and serve the community in which the Lord has placed us. We need to focus and align our efforts so our people grow, the community is edified, and God is glorified. We needed to, as Pastor Greg Finke of Dwelling114.org says in His book, “Join Jesus on His mission.”
I can do that! I wanted to do that!
Although that had been in my mind (and that of some others) for awhile, the Lord was not Calling me somewhere else. I knew He still wanted me at St. Mark. Perhaps He wanted a new role for me at St. Mark. I and a couple of others had looked at that possibility before, but it was not supported by some key leaders at the time. I wondered, “Lord, why do You have me here? What is it You want me to do?”
I was frustrated. I was confused. So I learned patience. I learned humility. I leaned to ask simply, “Lord, open the doors that need to be opened and close the doors that need to be closed.” I didn’t need a great “Divine Memo,” just for Him to show me the next step He wanted me to take and when He wanted to.
Then, after much waiting, a door opened! It allowed a better utilization of my gifts and also an avenue for St. Mark to reach out to the community and put our faith in action in service!
“Ok, Lord; You opened the door. Let’s go!”
In announcing my feeling and desire to step down and all the other pieces of the puzzle, I could see in many people’s eyes probing questions and feelings. Most had a similar base: “Who is this coming from? Is Pastor Heitshusen being forced out? Why is he really stepping down? How will he feel when the Pastor Duerr is the senior and he does things differently?”
I understand those questions, and have answered them many times in the past couple of months.
I know and feel led by the Lord that this is the right move for me and I firmly believe it is for St. Mark and for Pastor Duerr, too! It is not only where I want to be, it is where I strongly believe He wants me (and Pastor Duerr) to be! I know it is where the Lord wants St. Mark to be!
Why on earth would I be upset to be in a place where I can better serve Him and His people? Why should I care that the Lord, my Maker and Redeemer, has made me to serve Him differently? Why should I, the clay, be disappointed that the Potter has re-formed me into a vessel with a different purpose?
Indeed, I think much comes from a different sense of purpose and vocation. [It is also part of the reason Pastor Duerr has put together a series dealing with “The Call of God.”]
Hear this passage from Colossians 3 again,
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember…that the Master you are serving is Christ.”
Read it again.
You are working for the Master, Christ!
That’s true for me as a senior pastor or as an associate pastor (or, indeed, in whatever capacity He would have me)!
And, that’s true for you!
Whatever you do! Wherever it is! Whomever your supervisor is, no matter how good or bad!
It is time for me in the senior position to decrease and for Pastor Duerr in his position to increase; but, through it all, for all of us to remember that, in relation to Jesus, we all must decrease and lift up Jesus! We all must remember that, whatever our Calling and vocation, we work for Jesus and, as such, to do our best!
It brings to mind the great hymn, “Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling” and it’s many apropos stanzas (based on Isaiah 6:8):
“Let none hear you idly saying,
There is nothing I can do.
While the lost of earth are dying,
And the Master calls for you;
Take the task He gives you gladly;
Let His work your pleasure be;
Answer quickly when He calls you,
Here am I, send me, send me.”
It’s time to increase Jesus and decrease ourselves. It’s time to remember that we are serving Jesus no matter what our job and vocation is. It’s time to reach out to our community in love and service. It’s time to boldly walk through the door the Lord has opened for all of us. It’s time to go!