Pastor Wendy Mohler-Seib served as a TIM Associate Pastor at Chapel Hill Fellowship United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas from 2012-2014.
I dislike fighting. I avoid hockey because of the bloody noses and flying fists. In high school, I ran away and hid from fights while others gathered around to cheer. People actually pay to watch WWF fights; that blows my mind! On Wii Sports, I’ll happily challenge you in tennis or bowling, just please no boxing. For a woman that hates fighting, I find myself fighting all the time.
Ministry is a fight. Ministry requires internal and external fortitude. It demands a mental, emotional, and spiritual strength that comes only in the confidence we find in relationship with God, the one who called us. For each person, the manner by which we are called to “fight the good fight” varies. I am convinced that we all fight in one way or another once we respond to God’s call. The great patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith, demonstrate those whose calling depended on a fight. They fought through the calling to complete the mission God charged them to complete. The call stories of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel, Isaac and Rebekah, David, Mary and Joseph, Simon Peter, John the Baptist, etc. all started with a fight. Many of these faithful faced a long, tumultuous fight. Some fought the same battles of insecurity, familial conflict, and societal pressures we face today as we work toward completing God’s mission for us. Some heroes in the faith ended one fight only to find another one waiting, and still others moved from life to death fighting to finish the task.
Should we expect any less fighting today? Only space and time separate us from those great heroes of the faith. The same God invites. We still depend on the love and grace of God to strengthen us as we work to accomplish our primary tasks to love God and love others. My own experience certainly hasn’t been a fight-free zone. With each evolution of God’s calling for me, and each unearthing of the next leg of the journey, a fight ensues. Sometimes the fights are internal and sometimes external, and other times it is both. Each fight I’ve faced is deeply personal, and deeply tied to my identity in Christ. Even in hindsight, some still garner real pain, while others bring laughter and joy. Through each fight, I learned lessons, gained trust in God, and God develops my character through each of these trials and tribulations. The faithfulness of God is easy to recognize in hindsight. I look back and see the story of God’s work in my life taking shape, and I remember God’s faithfulness as I lean in and keeping fighting.
The first time I heard the call of God to ministry, and walked the aisle to respond to the call, the pastor sent me back to my seat reminding me that God’s call to vocational ministry excludes women. Defending my calling, defying the beliefs of those that nurtured me in the faith to answer the call of God definitely involved an internal and external fight. Friendships lost in answering the call, questions from friends and family, and silence from others forced me to dig into my relationship with God, listen carefully to the “still small voice”, and humble myself before God. I soon discovered that answering the call is costly, and no small feat. Beyond lost friendship and disapproving conflicts, answering the call to ministry requires humility, a willingness to surrender one’s life wholly to God, and the harsh realities that come with living in a glass house. The saying is true, “with great privilege comes great responsibility.” Unfortunately, overcoming the initial fight hardly ended the fighting for me. Fortunately, the call of God is irrevocable and the faithfulness of God endures forever. Thankfully, I’m fighting different battles today and for every person that responded negatively, God provided two or three new friends to join me in the journey and spur me on in the faith. I’m grateful to walk the sacred ground of ministry. What an honor for God’s to invite us into the holy spaces of their lives and share the most intimate trials and joys of their lives. God always provides respite and the replenishment necessary for us to keep fighting the good fight of faith.
After 14 years, since God’s initial call to vocational ministry, I’m not fighting about whether this is men’s work or women’s work. Still, I fight every day. I fight to keep Christ at the center of my life and my family. I fight to balance the commitments of my appointment with my commitments to my family, friends, and personal health. Every day I fight insecurities. I fight to become more competent in my work by honing my preaching skills, expanding my reach, increasing my pastoral care abilities, acting in faith not in fear, leading with integrity and courage, and ordering my life to honor God. I fight to nurture important relationships. I fight to use my vacation, to steal away moments for rest, relaxation, and hearing God’s voice for myself and those I shepherd. I fight daily to be faithful to the call I’ve received.
After years in ministry, and my first completed year of pastoral ministry, my heart is more open than ever to 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The words carry a different ring than they did prior to this year of ministry. As I pastor, I now hear these words as encouragement rather than a charge or a challenge. I pray when it is all said and done, I will say with confidence that above all else, “I kept the faith.” Like any great athlete, success comes with the help of a great coach, a great team, incredible support, due diligence, discipline, and intense focus toward the ultimate aim.
Through the TiM program, God is better equipping me to fight the good fight. Rev. Jeff Gannon continues to be a dedicated, strong ministry coach. The TiM cohort and PCM Residency participants not only run beside me and help set a steady tempo, they encourage me during the hard stretches and laugh with me when the wind is at our back. In our monthly gatherings, we’ve learned from others with more fighting experience than us. They’re gracious enough to teach us from their mistakes, and encourage us in beneficial practices. More experienced clergy model for us due diligence and discipline in fighting the good fight. Together in this connectional system, God gives us support, and position alongside those that keep pointing us toward Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. May we press in to run the race to which we’ve been called in Christ Jesus.