Let me start with an analogy that will help lead us into this conversation about disorientation in ministry. As a a pilot, one of the things I had to learn early on in my training was how to recover from a situation in flying called Spatial Disorientation, define as the inability of a person to correctly determine his/her body position in space. Spacial disorientation happens when you are flying under certain conditions, whether it’s cloudy and you can’t distinguish the orientation of the airplane, or when you are flying over water and you can’t distinguish the sky from the water. This actually happened to me once when living in Wisconsin. I was flying over a portion of Lake Michigan. For a moment I panicked because I could not tell what was the lake and what was the sky. If you lose control as a pilot you enter into this frightening thing called spatial disorientation where it is actually possible to be flying upside down and think you are right side up, or you are flying at a rapid speed down, but you think you are maintaining a level altitude – Many have died from this… Here’s the point! The only way to recover, or just avoid having this happen to you is by locking your eyes and full attention on the instruments – The way to avoid spatial disorientation is to trust your instruments despite what all the externals indicators are telling you. I HAVE SEEN THIS NEED IN MINISTRY and I have seen with many, and came close to seeing it in my own life, where it is possible to lose orientation. You forget why you are doing what you doing, and everything looks off. Up is down, and down is UP and it can be frightening. And this is the time in ministry where we have to lock our eyes on our instruments and trust them. We fasten our eyes again on why Jesus called us, and on the Great Commission which drives everything we do and the gospel itself. This is when we rely on others to regain perspective. So to help us understanding this better I will be interviewing Dr Phil Howard who is professor of Ministry Leadership and Spiritual Formation and who also serves as the chair of ministry and leadership Distinguishing between up and down in ministry. Joining us is Pastor Jeff Gangel.
What happens when someone close to you, who you committed to serve with, and together dedicated your life to follow Jesus, is no longer with you. Being a pastor, or being in any kind of ministry vocation is different than any other job, in that, it really takes both you and your spouse to do it well. This is why we often say that when a pastor is called into ministry, his wife is called too. A little personal disclosure here… When I was dating Elaine she knew I had committed my life to serve Jesus overseas, and she understood that a commitment to me would also mean a commitment to that. So do you know what she did? She broke up with me. Pretty mean, huh? But I am glad she did, because she needed to make sure this was a journey she could also travel. So two weeks later she concluded, “I know I can live with that guy, but I also know I can go with him anywhere and do what he does.” We got back together, and have been serving together for 34 years.
I’m excited to sit down today with Mark and Viviane Shady who will share how the call of God on their lives to serve him was not only recaptured in loss, but also strengthened as the gospel pushed its way past the grief and dominated their lives again. Mark and Viviane have been married for 14 years and together have five children. They currently serve as International Workers with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I was blessed to meet with them just one day before their return. They share with us what happens to that call in loss, and in grief.