How do you discern a career change? Or, to use language many in the church are familiar with, how do you discern a new call?
After 25 years in local ministry, specifically in the areas of church planting, revitalization and change leadership, my new call came through various means.
For several years, ministry friends and colleagues asked if I’d considered a role as a regional/conference/association minister. They were calling out gifts that they observed in my life.
For years, my side gig has been connecting with pastors and other leaders beyond my local church role. In several cases, this resulted in repurposing buildings, helping groups acquire and sell buildings, helping nonprofits find space for their work, and working with churches to plan community events. This helped some folks hear the Jesus story again from a fresh perspective.
These sharing, networking and organizing skills are something all of us in ministry increasingly lean into in our post-Christendom context.
Over the years, I have taught Anabaptist perspectives and approaches to faith in the local church contexts I’ve found myself in. I’ve also encouraged this movement through networks like the Jesus Collective.
Switching into a regional church role as executive minister of Mennonite Church B.C. seems like a natural outgrowth of what has come before.
The church is a unique organism and organization where we exist as a Jesus-centred entity. (When we are not Jesus-centred, we cease being a church.) Serving as executive minister is a step removed from the local church, but there is precedent for it in the Bible. In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes, “The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.”
I am not sure I aspired to this role. But, after a series of people who didn’t know each other encouraged me to give to the church at a new or different level, it caused me to reconsider my trajectory and service.
That’s how “the nudge” came. That’s how I discerned a new call.
Mennonites struggle with offices in the church, even though Ephesians 4 makes the case for such roles (as do all kinds of organizational theories). I think no one is fully qualified for this work, which keeps me humble. This posture keeps me open to the new things the Holy Spirit wants to do, and new ways of sharing the Jesus way and message.
Now for a four-paragraph digression. Frankly, I struggle with the title, “executive minister.” Can we consider going back to “bishop”—a title used by several Mennonite groups in the past?
“Executive” seems so, well… not Anabaptist. It brings to mind the word “execute,” a word that can mean putting someone to death. I don’t recall executions as part of the executive minister role. Yes, yes—I understand “execute” also means carrying out and completing tasks. Even still, we aren’t into violent language, right?
One definition of “executive” is: “A chief officer or administrator, especially one who can make significant decisions on their own authority.” However, the executive minister role is about relational authority to build up people and churches, and perhaps be prophetic from time to time. The New Testament word “episkopos”—Ancient Greek for bishop or overseer—strikes me as putting the emphasis back on relationships and collaborative leadership.
Okay, enough of the digression.
No matter what my title is, I hope I can help more people rise up and respond to nudges of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for me and our many wonderful pastors and church leaders across MC B.C. as we continue to build on the foundation already laid.
Shel Boese is executive minister of Mennonite Church B.C. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more From Our Leaders columns:
Creating a community of calling
Learning about waiting
Executive road trip
Where do transformation, inspiration and calling come from?
A plastic chair partnership