“Church leaders wanted me to ask if you would be interested in submitting a resumé to serve as lead pastors of Connection Point Church?” This became our lunch-time conversation after having shared about missions in the Middle East with this great church in West Lafayette, Indiana over Labor Day weekend in 2015.
The current lead pastors of Connection Point were planning on retiring at the end of the year and the elected church leaders (deacon board) were in the process of considering candidates to follow their tenure as faithful leaders of this body. We were both blessed and surprised by the question from the current lead pastor, but told him, “Thanks for the compliment of such a request, but we really love what God has us doing overseas and so we don’t think that’s something we could consider at this time.”
We then finished lunch, loaded up and got back on the road for the eight-hour car ride back home. We were living in Missouri so that I could continue to work on my Master of Divinity at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. While driving, I asked Shellie, “What do you think about the question we were asked at lunch?” Shellie paused and replied,
“I feel like there is a rubber band attached to the back of our car pulling us back to West Lafayette. I think God would like us to at least pray about the opportunity to see if He is leading us this way.”
She was right. I knew God was asking us to pray about the opportunity, so we committed to sleeping on the question and waking up early the next morning to pray and better discern what God might be doing.
After praying, we felt led to call the lead pastor and let him know we would consider submitting our names for consideration. He thanked us for the call and had Leon, one of the deacons, call and talk to us about the process. We told Leon we had made a commitment years ago that we would be God’s currency and that He could spend us as He wanted. So if God was behind this request, we were in; if not, we were out. He confirmed similar feelings, saying, that they simply wanted God’s man and woman for the job and that they would be praying with us for God’s will to be done.
Shellie and I would then spend the next couple of months in prayer and fasting, asking God to make His will obvious to us and the church. The challenge was, we knew what was unfolding in the Middle East and we really wanted to be a part of what God was doing there. We were wrestling with what could be God’s will for our family, but knew we were in good company considering Jesus, too, had to struggle through the will of the Father (Luke 22:42).
Within a few days of us submitting our resumé, we contacted our leadership in missions and asked that they pray along with us. One remarked, “You bet! I’m happy to pray for closed doors.” Ha! We loved our leaders and appreciated their hearts for us, for Jesus, and for the worldwide advancement of God’s Kingdom.
While the leadership of Connection Point was considering resumés, we continued to raise awareness toward the mission of God and what He was doing in the Middle East. I took classes during the week and would travel to speak in churches on the weekends. Around the middle of October, after having finished a class, I went into an empty classroom for a video conference with a pastor from Seattle. He was interested in our work in Jerusalem and we were talking about ways we could work together to advance the kingdom there. After hanging up from that call, the weight of glory entered that room and God spoke to my heart, “You can stop talking about Jerusalem now.” It is hard to describe moments like that with God. The weight you feel, the conviction of His presence, the joy of His coming in that way and the motivation to fulfill His will. And what was His will? I knew in that moment it was to be committed to His desire for us to serve as lead pastors of a church in West Lafayette, Indiana.
In the same time frame that God was revealing Himself in tangible ways in a classroom in a seminary in Springfield, Missouri, He was revealing His will to an intercessory prayer group at Connection Point Church. He led them to Isaiah chapter 46,
“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. ‘Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.” (Isaiah 46:8-13, ESV)
This prayer group did not know that one of the resumés being considered was from a family from a far country, from the east. But as church leadership convened later that weekend, they came together and unanimously agreed, God wants the Maddox family to come for this purpose. One of the deacons called us, and within a few weeks we visited with the church for a weekend, and received a 99% vote of affirmation that we would be the next lead pastors of Connection Point Church. God wanted us to lead this church into the future, into the new beginning God intended.
What a joy! Because we serve such a gracious heavenly Father, the two Sundays before we came to visit Connection Point, I had opportunity to thank Northwest Assembly of God, the church I grew up in, and the Stone Church, the church that sent our family overseas. I also had opportunity to visit with one of the men we were working with in the Middle East. He shared with us that the kingdom movement had now grown beyond what we ever thought possible, all without our help :-). God didn’t need us in the Arab World to accomplish His purposes there. Instead, He had a different plan for our lives, one He had uniquely prepared us for the past 38 years, from childhood to the mission field.
Our family was embarking on a new beginning at the same time He was preparing a congregation in Indiana for one as well. But it would take some years to understand all that God was doing. A new beginning was on the horizon, but we needed to experience life and the work of the church in the U.S. for a few years to figure all that out. We would continue to wrestle with what God wanted, but He would be faithful to show us His way forward.
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