Yesterday I explained how God led us to Calgary, Alberta to serve at our current church. I was all set for a glorious ride on the wings of the new opportunity Jesus had opened up for us.

Yeah. That year was brutal. Within twelve months, our custodial couple resigned, our secretary resigned, our family pastor resigned, our children’s coordinator resigned, the lead pastor resigned, the music pastor resigned, another children’s coordinator resigned, and I became the lead pastor of the church. All by myself. The team I’d joined had vanished into very thin air, leaving me shaking my head and muttering to God one day, “You have got to be kidding.”

The interesting thing was, God prepared me for taking the lead pastor position.

You must understand, I never aspired to the lead pastor position. As far as I was concerned, I was going to be a youth pastor for life. So God had to drag me kicking and screaming into the lead role. Here’s how he did it.

One morning I felt a prompting to begin punching out a document the likes of which I’d never even thought of punching out before: An “If I were lead pastor of a church” document. I was in the middle of doing that when the current lead pastor poked his head into my office and said, “We need to talk.” That talk became an “I’m resigning” lunch.

That night I could hardly sleep. I had vision plans and phases and timelines and all kinds of new ideas flooding through my brain like a bad acid trip. I rolled out of bed to write them down and finally asked God to make it stop. Mercifully, he did eventually turn off the tap, and I crashed. By the time I woke up the next morning, a persistent kind of dread had fallen on me. Why was this happening? I wasn’t even interested in being the lead pastor!

Not too much later, a sickening kind of realization gripped me: Either God was testing me, seeing if I’d give up youth ministry if he asked me to, or this was the real deal—he was preparing me to be the lead pastor. I honestly didn’t know which, even though the church hadn’t asked me to consider the position yet.

God then posed a series of questions to me over the course of about a month:

1. “Would you be a casualty for me?” IE, if I call you to serve here and they chew you up and spit you out, are you okay with that? Are you willing to die charging into battle in this valley? I said yes. But the next question was the hardest one he’s ever asked me.

2. “Are you willing to do this if your family became a casualty for me?” And my heart sank. God and I have a deal: The answer is yes, ahead of time, no matter what. But this one shook me. “You know the answer is yes,” I told him. “But I can’t say it quite yet.”

He let me stew and pray and muse and worry for about two weeks, until one day I woke up with such a palpable sense of dread that by the time I got to my office I barked out loud, “What? What is it?”

“What’s your answer?”

No more stalling. It was time. Now or never. I picked up the pictures of my wife, Shauna, and our three beautiful children, and placed them on the floor. I took my sword off the display on the wall, the symbol of my God-given strength, and also placed it on the floor. Then I prostrated myself in his presence and ugly sobbed for twenty minutes until I’d poured out everything I had, until my yes was complete. Then I wiped my face, got up off the floor, and waited for God to work.

Tomorrow: The sound of thunder.