The United Methodist Church has been God’s agent of change in my life. We frequently hear that we should get out of our comfort zone in order to grow. Well, I like my comfort zone. I am not happy when I have to leave it. I am a small-town boy who resents change. Little did I know that by answering the call to ordained ministry, and choosing to stay in the denomination I grew up in, that I had signed up for a lifetime of change.
I doubt that my experiences as a United Methodist pastor have been unique. My first appointment came when the phone rang unexpectedly during my middler year in seminary. Two of my appointments have been to places that I could not identify on a map beforehand. One was to the one place I told my wife we could never be appointed to. One came with a question from the cabinet: would I like to? My answer: no I would not. I served that appointment for seven years. I signed up to serve as a United Methodist clergy with the expectation that I would tend the faithful who would show up on my church’s doorstep. I woke up one morning living in one of the largest mission fields in the world.
All of this change has led me to meet and work with many, many amazing people. I have been blessed to work with men and women of all kinds of backgrounds from all sorts of places. There have been brilliant thinkers, devoted servants, inspirational leaders, and – above all – genuine lovers of God. Exposure to so many genuine servants of the Gospel has been a challenge to grow in my own life and faith.
Every step, unbidden and unplanned on my part, has been useful to God in the continual work of re-shaping my heart. Every wound has been an opportunity for grace. Every new work has been a challenge to grow. Every defeat has been a tutor in the discipline of trust. Every move from appointment to appointment has taught the transience of things and the value of relationships: relationships with people, and above all, my relationship with God.
Relationships with people become more astonishing with time. There are a number of people who, for reasons that are not clear to me, love me. Miracles happen. My relationship with God becomes ever more central as the days pass by. I have learned that I cannot live without a vital, daily relationship with God through Christ. Or rather, life without faith in Christ is a kind of living death for me.
Like many of us, I did not fully understand all that I was agreeing to when I said “Yes” to God’s call to ordained ministry. But it was the United Methodist Church that gave me a place to respond to that call. And it has been the United Methodist Church that God has used to make, and re-make, and re-make my soul. We call it sanctification. It has not always been easy. But it has been grace-filled. I would not change it.
The Rev. Tim Rogers is a member of the South Carolina Conference and serves as the senior pastor of Mt. Hebron UMC. He has previously served as Conference Secretary and Coordinator of Clergy Services. A graduate of Duke Divinity School, he and his wife live in Lexington, SC.