Villa Rica minister Marty McLain explores the path on which at some point every pastor finds himself but no one wants to experience in The Wilderness: Enduring God’s Call to Wait. It’s a read that brings hope when you don’t just question where God has currently placed you, but if your ministry had any legitimacy to begin with.
If you’re looking for the book painting a rosy picture of ministry, this isn’t it. McLain, teaching pastor of Westhills Church, lays out the low times. He tells about being confronted by church members over his lack of leadership. He explains how that can cause a minister to not only question his calling, but his ability to provide for his family.
But through it all, there’s a thread going back to that calling. Furthermore, there’s a reminder to trust where God leads us and the experiences we gain – good and bad – from those experiences.
Those events, McLain explains, don’t need to be roadblocks to ministry. Instead, see them as building stones. Those individuals and events making you question your calling can, in effect, be sending you toward a greater understanding of it. “Sometimes it’s not about getting from point A to point B but about getting to know Jesus better,” he writes.
McLain draws from the stories of Joseph, David, and Paul to spell out his points. Joseph experienced betrayal by his brothers and fellow “dungeon-mate,” not to mention a false accusation by Potiphar’s wife of attempted rape. After being anointed king, David endured years of being on the run by a jealous Saul. Paul's battle raged largely within himself, trying to extinguish the movement he'd been trained to reject until a personal encounter with the Lord himself. After his Damascus Road experience and three years in the Arabian Desert reading through the Scripture, Paul emerged with such a powerful testimony that his former peers wanted him dead.
During what he calls his own wilderness experience, McLain was invited to northern Europe to represent American evangelicalism in a documentary. His role, he explains, was to to compare and contrast how Americans and Scandinavians approach faith.
McLain knew what he was in for, and so prepared accordingly. In front of the camera he debated liberal state church priests in Denmark, evolution with a secular humanist in Sweden, and attended a "heavy metal mass" in Finland. McLain represented his faith well and didn't water down the gospel one iota.
The reaction was everything you'd expect. The documentary became a YouTube sensation and atheists from all over the world attacked McLain relentlessly online. And while that was tough to take, he rested in knowing he'd stood his ground. More important, believers from around the world contacted the pastor and let them know his stance encouraged them. It cleared up something for McLain, a lesson that can also refer to ministers standing firm in their calling even in the tough times.
"You see," he writes, "a lightning rod must be willing to be struck by lightning. It hurts, but somebody's got to do it."
The Wilderness: Enduring God's Call to Wait can be purchased through Amazon.
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