Thursday, August 6, 2009

Prevenient, Providential but inconvenient Grace

Good morning God,
Events over the last two days have had me puzzling over prevenient and providential grace. I have always found you to be 'the God who goes before'. Wherever I am, you have been before me, preparing the way, without which I could never be obedient to your command to follow you. By your prevenient grace you provide the means for me to grow according to how I respond to the opportunities you providentially grant me.

This is true for all Christians but is especially true for anyone engaged in circuit ministry. It's one of the reasons why I think it is so important that we continue to 'send' probationer ministers to their first appointment rather than allow them to enter the 'normal' stationing round with its negotiations, invitations and explorations (which tries to match prayerfully what the circuit thinks it wants with what the minister thinks they can offer and what the minister wants with what the circuit thinks it can offer, with everyone hoping that whatever is decided is somehow what you want for both the circuit and the minister!) Being 'Sent' rather than being able to choose serves as an initial reminder as we enter ministry that the choices we think we have are nothing more than an illusion.

There is, after all, something delightfully delusional in the idea that a church 'knows' what sort of minister YOU want it to have in order for your will to be done, or that a minister 'knows' what sort of ministry they are going to be able to offer by your grace. You have a habit of repeatedly disturbing our 'knowledge' and 'certainties' and removing safe 'predictability' to ensure that YOUR will, not ours, be done. And what a lovely mess that makes of the stations and of the best laid circuit plans of stewards and ministers! Your providential care of us can seem an inconvenient grace sometimes!

My grace is sufficient for you - that is your real promise to both circuit and minister alike.

Your providential grace has taught me that Churches and ministers can depend on you for all their needs, as YOU have determined them, which may not be the same as they wisely planned or decided them .

Prevenient grace has likewise taught me that dependence on your providential grace can be the salvation of a Church and a minister - if both have the courage to respond to it as a means of grace, rather than a problem to be solved.

Forgive us God, when we lack the faith to believe that people will respond to your offer of prevenient, providential, though sometimes seemingly inconvenient grace.
Forgive us if ever we lose sight of the fact that a church and a circuit are part of your kingdom, that you alone have the power to decide the ministry and the future of each church, and remind us that the ministry we share and the work that we do is only worth doing if it is for your glory.
Above all this - forgive us if ever we doubt that you will find a way for YOUR will to be done, not just for a circuit to be run.

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