Define It | Devotion #6: The Making of a Gathering Pastor
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
I have had many “aha” moments in my life when it comes to my walk with Christ. I think one of the most monumental was watching God direct my path in the ways He wanted me to go, once I finally gave in and let Him. In 2006, I was a 22-year-old newly married immature kid who did not know what I was doing with my life. I had just taken a sales job across the country and decided to move with my wife to a place where we knew no one and had no connections to any sort of church. Growing up, we were both church kids to the core. Being extremely involved in the church was a part of our everyday lives. It was who we were. Yet, even though we went to a Bible college (where we should have been spiritually thriving), we both fell out of the church kid lifestyle. Throughout college and the first year of my marriage, I began to backslide in my walk with Christ. I knew that by following my own path, I had lost my way. I knew this move to Florida was bringing me to a crossroads, and I could go one of two ways. Would I make the Christian faith my own, not just something my parents made me do as a kid? Would I make Christ the center of my life and my marriage? I knew I believed in Christ, but would I make Him Lord of my life? The simple answer was yes, of course, that is what I wanted. Yet my actions up to this point did not portray it. I knew that it was time to make a choice. As a control freak, letting God direct my steps was very difficult. I enjoyed the benefits of having Him in my life, but I still wanted that control. So here I was at the crossroads. Would I give my life to God? Would I let Him be real and active in my life?
Sierra and I looked at many houses throughout the central eastern coast of Florida and ended up settling on a little beach town called Edgewater. I would be traveling for work, so I wanted to be close to the interstate, and my southern California raised wife wanted to be close to the ocean and not too far from Disney. Edgewater seemed to be the perfect fit. When we found a house just a couple miles from the beach, Chick-Fil-A, and a really good Chinese takeout place, we were instantly sold! My wife and I committed to making church apart of our lives again, which we had let slip over our years in college and beyond. We had attended periodically, but truly getting involved in a church was not something we had done. So when we arrived in Florida, it was a commitment we decided to make. We began to acknowledge our need for God in our marriage and understood we could not do it on our own. We tried a little church down the street on our first Sunday and knew right away it was not for us. I began to get discouraged and prayed, “God I am trying to follow you, but you need to help me here. Please show us where to go and lead us to the place where you want us!” All that was left to do was trust. Wow, did He come through in answering that prayer quickly and specifically!
The following Saturday, I felt an intense and unusual urge to exercise (yes, I realize I need to get this urge more often). Our neighborhood had a clubhouse and gym, so I headed there for the first and maybe the only time in the whole time we lived there. I began to workout and minded my own business. I was not there to talk to anyone, and I was a little annoyed when I saw a lady coming over to start a conversation. Out of the blue, she asked, “Where do you go to church?” At first, I was stunned and then realized I was wearing a Providence Church t-shirt. It was a ministry of a friend of mine in Pontiac, and he always hooked me up with gear to wear. I told her that we had just moved and did not have a church as I went back to my workout. She interrupted me again and said, “You should go to Edgewater Alliance Church, they have a lot of families your age there.” I instantly felt in my heart that God was telling me that this was the place for us and He was leading us there. I later found out that that lady did not even go there. In fact, she was not even a believer! How cool is it that God can use whatever and whoever He wants to deliver a message?! The next day, Sierra and I walked into that church like most visitors do, timid and keeping to ourselves. We enjoyed the service, but what really hooked me was the announcement that today was softball sign up day. Another confirmation that this was the church for me. The service ended, and before we could even exit our row, a lady and her husband came over and asked us if we were new, where we lived, and basically our whole history. She then began to walk us around the auditorium and introduced us to couples. It was horrifying, but I knew it was exactly what God wanted for us (I am forever grateful to you Steve and Michelle for being used by God to connect us!).
It was like an instant connection with these people. We had dinner with several families during the first week. I started softball, and as it turned out, most of the families we had met on Sunday were on the softball team and invited us to Orlando to go to Universal Studios the following Saturday. By the end of the Universal trip, we had made ten new best friends. God instantly grew us close with our new church family, and through growing close to them, we grew in His Word and as a couple. We began serving in the student ministry, ushering, and hosting a small group. God truly directed our paths to this church. Most of the people we met there have become family and lifelong friends. I can truly say I would not be in ministry today if God had not directed my paths to that gym and then to that church.
It is amazing to see God direct our paths when we give up the control. We went into this journey not knowing what the future held, but He knew exactly what He was doing. I encourage you today to let go of your past, your failures, and your mistakes, and trust God for your future. Though you may not know what tomorrow will bring, when you place your trust in Him He will prove faithful and direct your path according to His perfect plan.