For nearly one year, I have been sitting on the bench. God, the Sovereign Coach, decided to place me on the sidelines after 40 years of preaching and teaching.
I preached my last sermon at my previous church on the final Sunday of June 2016. Since then, I've experienced three hospitalizations, two ambulance rides, a couple of serious illnesses, major weight loss, atrial fibrillation, multiple antiobiotic regimens, home health care from visiting nurses, colon re-section surgery, prescription pain medications, CT scans, X-rays, IV lines, a PICC line, blood tests, nuclear stress test, cardiac ultrasound, and more doctor visits than I can number. I've visited thousands of people in hospitals during four decades as pastor. This time, I was the patient.
My health challenges were accompanied by vocational challenges related to my calling as pastor in a church I served for nearly 32 years. The church leaders and I agreed to separate after months of anguished attempts to reach agreement on the future direction of the church. In the end, we couldn't agree.
So, I have been sitting on the ministry bench. Uncomfortably. I want to be in the game. I want to fulfill my calling. I love preaching and pastoring. But if the Coach says, "PB, take a seat," you sit down whether you like it or not.
Looking at ministry from the bench has been intriguing. I've been observing the game without playing. I have a few observations that might relate to some of you who are benched right now:
- Coach has the final word about who plays and who sits.
- We are surprised to find ourselves on the bench, but Coach isn't surprised at all.
- Coach loves all His players, even the benched ones.
- Being benched isn't necessarily punitive.
- Coach has a game plan that nobody else understands.
- I trust the Coach.
I'm hoping to get off the bench soon. But that isn't my decision. I ask the Coach every day whether I can go back into the game. He sees me sitting on the bench, leaning forward, and itching to get back in the action. But only when He says, "Hey PB, you're up," will I jump off the bench and get back to my calling. I'd appreciate your prayers for wisdom and patience. #NotDoneYet