“Anyone who has been a Christian for very long has faced a crisis in his or her life when having to decide between goods. It may have been whether to study law or go into the ministry, or whether it was the blonde or the brunette, or which church to serve in, or which phase of Christian ministry, or whether it was to be in this country or overseas. Again and again, the key for you and me is whether we let Yahweh make the choice on good. We say, “I have come to the place where I know that good isn’t good unless it is your will for me.” Will Yahweh be Lord, and will he decide what I choose to be good?”-Dennis Kinlaw, Lectures in OT Theology
I know what I think is good. I think good is shady mountain trails that lead to waterfalls. I think good is towns with old churches that were built with an eye to beauty rather than practicality. I think good is an enormous library with every book I could ever need. I think good is the world’s best apple fritter. These things speak goodness to me; when I imagine where I might live someday, that place has a little bit of all those things. That place may not exist anywhere but in my mind.
I think bad is hot and crowded suburbs. I think bad is Phoenix. Some people have foolishly prayed for God not to send them to Africa. I prayed that he would not send me to Arizona. I prayed that he would send me somewhere like Oregon or Montana or Pennsylvania or Maine. “It would be really cool if I could go there,” I prayed. “Be cool, God,” I prayed. I asked to go to those places, and I never really considered anywhere else.
I am moving to Kansas.
The rub of it is that I have seen it coming for about two years, though I never told a soul because I was afraid it might come true. I was driving back from Utah two summers ago, and I stayed overnight in a west-Kansas town in the middle of nowhere. I knew that a friend of mine was a youth pastor there, and as I took my morning run through town, I wondered how he liked living there. The town has all that anyone needs, but it was at least six hours from anywhere that mattered. How would I like to live someplace like this?
“How WOULD you like to live someplace like this?”
The question startled me. My defenses went up against it. I tried to get it out of my head, but it would not go away. I think that was because God asked it, and he was waiting for an answer.
“Not cool, God,” I said.
I got back on the road towards home, but now I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind. Could I serve as a pastor in a west-Kansas town? What if God led me to a church out there someday? Just because those towns are islands in an ocean of wheat and corn doesn’t mean that they don’t need pastors just as much as I need a donut shop and a good library. Yet rural Kansas’s lack of bakeries and libraries was downright disturbing.
I made up my mind to drive through some isolated Kansas towns on my way home to see what they were like. I left the interstate and headed south and east on smaller highways, working my way down to Oklahoma. The longer I drove, the more I was unable to escape the question. The question became less about how I would like to go to Kansas, and it became phrased in a new way. “Would you go to Kansas if you were called?”
For some reason it became a question I had to answer. That afternoon, not knowing what the future would hold, not knowing when or where or why it might matter, I found myself telling God that I would go if he called. The decision wasn’t a commitment as much as it was an attitude change. I hadn’t signed up for anything. I simply became willing to go places I hadn’t considered before, places that could be good, not because they had everything I wanted, but because God was choosing my good for me.
Fast-forward to this spring. I found myself in a job-search, sending applications to churches across the country. I turned down a job I really wanted because I could find no peace in it, and I was rejected for a couple more that I was excited about.
My first batch of resumes went out to districts where I thought I wanted to live, but I also included one other district in that batch: Kansas. Can you guess which district called me back that afternoon?
I wasn’t surprised at all. Of course I couldn’t be sure then, but when I heard that the church in Argonia, KS wanted to interview me, I had a feeling that this would be the place. A couple weeks and a candidating flight to Kansas later, I was sure. I didn’t hesitate when I was offered the job. I was going to Kansas, just like I had suspected all along.
I don’t think I can really tell you right now how excited I am about this. I am thrilled at the opportunity to minister to a small rural church and to a small rural town on the Kansas plains, even when it barely meets any of the criteria I might have presented to God a couple years ago. In spite of that, I already feel like I will be glad to call Argonia my home. Plains Church continues to surprise me with its resources and heart for the town. I see so much potential, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. It all seems so inexplicably good to me. I don’t know why this is, other than God knows that it will be good, and I believe him.
A couple days ago I was looking at my atlas. I turned to Kansas and retraced with my finger the route I drove two summers back as I carried on that conversation with God. Turns out that I drove through Argonia that day, right in front of the church and parsonage I will be joining in a month. I don’t think it even registered in my mind as I sped past. I sure didn’t know I would be back, but I think God did.
Here we go, Plains Church. Together with God, let’s do something great.