How has our changed context called you to rewire your ministry gifts? 

April 28, 2023

This is the last of four devotionals based on II Chronicles 20:1-30. King Jehoshaphat now prepares his people to engage a massive army coming to annihilate them. His confidence has been renewed after his prayer brings a word from the Lord promising victory. 

Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.  (II Chron. 20: 20-25)

The description of Jehoshaphat’s reign in II Chron. 17-19 (the chapters prior to the above narrative) reveals a king carrying out the kinds of activities that one expects a king to do:

  • lead the army into battle,
  • administer justice,
  • establish a robust faith education system,
  • appoint representatives throughout the kingdom to handle local matters.

He clearly exercised kingly responsibilities very well. 

But here in chapter 20, the crisis chapter, Jehoshaphat is called upon to focus on three activities that were not on the curriculum at the Monarchic Training Institute: 

  • he gathered the entire community in the temple courtyard and led them in a prayer of helplessness and radical dependance on the Lord,
  • he formed choirs to sing praises while walking in front of the army toward the battle field,
  • and he organized loot transporting teams to carry all the possessions of the slain enemy back to Jerusalem.  

You’ve likely heard the proverb, “God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called.” That describes Jehoshaphat’s story here.

When the crisis comes, he is called to carry out tasks that he had not foreseen, and he trusted that God would equip the called.

How have you experienced this “I wasn’t trained to do this” dynamic?

During these past three years, we’ve all experienced it.

We lead communities that are unusually anxious, and therefore easily conflictual. Trust in institutions and their leaders has taken a hit. Pastors and other spiritual leaders are discouraged and exhausted. As a pastor said to me last week, “I’ve always led with joy, and I want that joy back!”

You know which tasks you have been called to carry out that were not part of your training. I’ve hosted conversations with about 150 pastors and spiritual leaders in the past two years, and I’ve observed three such tasks:

  1. Serving as communal trust shepherds. Trust is the most valuable currency in Christian communities today, and also the most fragile. There are many little practices that serve as “trust-sturdifiers,” and we are called to discern the ones that fit our context and temperament and engage in them every day. It’s a hot topic in ministry support circles, with lots of great ideas.  Google it! 
  2. Serving as spiritual directors to our institutions. Susan Beaumont makes this point powerfully in her classic book How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going (see especially pp. 37-40). Her Vibrant webinar based on the book remains a must-watch. We are called to discern and name (with others) the ways the Lord is present and is leading in the midst of our communities. 
  3. Tending our own souls with deep tender care. So many of us are leading with beat-up souls.  We have been trained so well to care for others that our defaults don’t remind us to care for ourselves. I’m grateful that so many of us are receiving support from spiritual directors, therapists, coaches, mentors, and peer groups. We need help! 

What other new tasks have you found yourself taking on these past three years? What is it like? Encouraging, exhausting, frightening, enlivening, all of the above? 

This ends our four week reflection on Jehoshaphat’s engagement with an overwhelming crisis in II Chron. 20. I have leaned on this powerful narrative daily these past three years, and I’m not done with it yet. 

Written by Syd Hielema

Currently serving the CRCNA as a Regional Pastor

Former Director of Faith Formation Ministries and the Connections project

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