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5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another?

I get this question a lot and have previously addressed it, but recently I have received it more frequently so I decided to update this post.

Several times in my ministry, first as a layperson and since then in vocational ministry, God has called me to leave one ministry and begin another. It can be a scary place to face the unknown, yet know that God is up to something new in your life. As with most posts I wrote, I share out of my own life experience. It’s the best framework of understanding I have.

I think it is important, however, to realize God uses unequaled experiences in each of our lives. Your experience will likely be different from mine. There was only one burning bush experience we know about in Scripture. At the same time, there are some common patterns I think each of us may experience, while the details remain unique.

This has been the process that I have experienced as God has led me to something new.

Here are 5 steps in discerning a change in ministry assignment:

Wonderful sweet success

Each time the door of a new opportunity opened it began opening (looking back) when things were going well in my current ministry. In fact, people who don’t understand the nature of a call (and some who do) have usually wondered why I would be open to something new.

Inner personal struggle

I usually have not been able to understand what God is up to, but there is something in me (and usually in my wife at the same time) where I know God is doing something new. While I do not know what it is, and not even if it involves a change in my place of ministry, I know God is doing a new work in my heart about something. Almost like the king in Daniel 4 who needed an interpretation, I know there’s something out there but at the time I can’t discern it. (I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit though to help me.)

Closeness to Christ

Brennan Manning calls it a Dangerous love of Christ. During the times leading up to a change of ministry assignment I will be growing in my relationship with Christ, usually in new depths of trust and abandonment. Again, looking back and I can see this clearly, but at the time I usually am just enjoying the ride and the closeness to Christ. Many times God is giving wisdom to share with others and (looking back) I can see that some of it was actually meant for me.

Opportunity presents itself

The opportunity often seems to come from nowhere, but with multiple experiences now I can see the pattern that has occurred each time. It is only after these first three experiences where God brings a new opportunity my way. This is probably because my spirit must be totally aligned with His Spirit in order for me to trust the new work He calls me to, because, again, it usually comes as a surprise. I have yet to be completely “ready” for the next step in my journey with Christ, because it always involves a leap of faith on my part, but this process prepares me to be ready to say “Yes Lord – Here am I – send me.”

I surrendered to God’s call

After I receive confirmation in my spirit, review the journey God has had us on, and Cheryl and I agree on where God is leading, I have yet to refuse the next assignment. I have certainly delayedy response, wrestled through the difficulty and comsulted many advisors, but never refused. That does not mean it is easy to leave my current ministry, but it has always been most rewarding to know we are in the center of God’s will for our life.

A special word to the spouse:

Cheryl has never been “ready” to leave friends in our current ministry, but she has always lined with me in knowing God was calling us to a new work in our life. I wrote about that tension from the spouse’s perspective HERE.

Have you shared these experiences?

What other experiences have you had that have led you to step out by faith into a new adventure with Christ?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Gloria A Leonard says:

    I love my comfort zone. The Holy Spirit is always nudging us when it's time for growth. If we're not quite ready we tend to resist change. That's me. Frustration in ministry when your a leader challenges you in so many ways. I am not the confrontational type because my reaction tends to be more emotional than spiritual. So I have to stay saturated in the Fruits of the Spirit otherwise the flesh will dictate my reaction. However, I am getting better. Thank God for wisdom and guidance. Yes, God definitely has a sense of humor when He gives us those challenging people. To much is given. Much is required.

  • Natalie says:

    From the perspective of a woman in vocational ministry: I am currently in the middle of discerning a change in ministry location and the pressure is great – the loyalty to my current is the struggle I'm fighting. I thank God that I have a husband who understands my calling and is willing to listen to God's direction and leading for our lives. It's a role reversal, but I believe he's asking us to take a leap of faith.

  • Tony says:

    Wow! God sure does know how to get our attention doesn't He? I have been feeling all of these things since about May. I don't know when, where or how but I feel a change coming. The one question I have is with opportunity presents itself. Can you elaborate more on that? Did you go looking or did you just get a phone call? I'm a youth pastor and have been wondering if I should be looking or do I wait? Thanks!

    • ronedmondson says:

      For me, it usually “presents itself” without me looking. Of course, I have to have my eyes open to see it. That could be overhearing a position is open. It could be a friend calls to ask if I know anyone looking for….and that person is me. And, I see nothing wrong with any of that or even with actively seeking if you're feeling God nudging you towards something new. Nothing wrong with exploring.

  • kmac4him

    Thank you, that was great! I am so glad you wrote on this. I don't see much written on this. As for me it is like this:
    Every time it has been an extreme restlessness that rudely breaks into my inner peace, a peace that I enjoy and experience when I am at the center of God’s will. This is a restlessness that just won’t quit and makes me uncomfortable in my spirit and usually takes me to my knees in a place of complete quiet with God where I silently submit to Him, and in most of my previous experiences, I also have been led to fast, to push my “particular” human condition down (thorn in the side LOL…), which does not like change. God surely has a sense of humor and I can see Him smile when He knows He is moving me. I don’t do well with change, but I am so glad that He has used us as “starters” and moved us about because I have grown in Him!

  • Chuck Taylor says:

    Thank you Ron for this perspective. What a great article to define how God moves. I have felt very much the same thing and as a coach I get asked this question often. I am glad that you have synthesized this process down into 5 manageable steps. Blessings.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Chuck. God bless you in your ministry. It's needed. —Sent from Mailbox for iPhone