My Church Supports My True Calling

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Moments shape our lives. Stephen Sondheim wrote in his show, Into the Woods:

Oh, if life were made of moments

Even now and then a bad one!

But if life were only moments

Then you’d never know you had one.

My life has had some incredible moments. The moment I met my wife. The moment my daughter was born. And the moment God called me into ministry.

I’ve also faced many tough moments. Moments of suicide attempts. Moments of despair when codependency ruined yet another friendship. The moment I lost my virginity to a man I didn’t know.

On a recent Thursday morning, another moment shaped my life.

Like any other Thursday morning, I had meetings at work. Unlike other Thursday mornings, though, my first meeting was with the senior pastor, the associate pastor, and the family pastor. Nervous wouldn’t begin to cover how I felt.

I sat down in the office, still running through every possible scenario in my head. They’d told me I wasn’t in trouble, but who really believes a group of pastors?

The senior pastor prayed to start the meeting. I don’t know what he prayed: one, because of nerves; two, because of what he said next.

“Dean, we’re moving you out of children’s ministry. We want you to try something new.”

My heart shattered — I love children’s ministry. I love my children’s ministry. I’d been serving in children’s ministry for years. Now they wanted to move me out of it?

But before I could even process this much, my pastor continued. “We want you to focus on school. You have a passion for counseling, and we want you to use that along with your story. We believe God has something else in store for you. A ministry not yet begun.

“We want you to help us reach LGBT people — inside this church, inside this city, and perhaps across the nation. It’s our belief that this is your true calling. And we want to help you.”

My metaphorical jaw hit the floor. Was this right? Did my pastor just say he wants to help me start a ministry to reach LGBT people? Does he even know what that means?

My pastor went on to tell me that the church elders were in full support. He had taken a risk and told them this idea, sharing my story with them — something I had given him permission to do over a year ago. And the elders were unanimous in supporting me. Another jaw-dropping revelation.

The meeting continued for another half-hour as we discussed some of the logistics. I asked a few questions and asked for time to pray about this and share with my wife. I already knew my answer, though.

Yes.

My call to ministry that came years ago — it was about this very notion. I remember praying that night as a young student. I remember God’s placing in my mind a vision of sharing the freedom Christ offers.

The clear call that Christ placed on my heart has still rung true every day of my life since. And now — now, I have a church to support me in this vision?

I left that meeting with the pastors in a daze. I ran to the nearest bathroom and bawled for three minutes straight. So many emotions flooded my spirit. After I collected myself, I called my friend, John, to share it all with him.

His basic response? “It makes sense!”

Something inside me still aches, thinking back on this moment. It’s still so fresh. I know this moment will have incredible ramifications. But right now, I am simply thankful for a church that supports me so much as to share this vision and call with me.

I will definitely remember this moment.

Has God spoken any sort of “calling” into your life? Does your church support you or do you feel unsupported by the church?

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  • Steve Boyer

    Man that is awesome. You are so blessed to have your church’s support. Go with it and pour your heart into this new responsibility.

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you, Steve! I’m excited about this opportunity.

  • Brandon Graves

    We never truly know where our story will go next, sometimes it’s just a fleeting glimpse here and there. So awesome that you are starting this ministry with the support of your church- we need more of them to do the same thing.

    • Dean Samuels

      That’s so true about our stories, Brandon. Thank you for the reminder. And I’m praying I have the chance to work with more and more churches in this area in the future.

  • Ashley Lavergne

    first of all, wow! that’s amazing! congrats! second that line was hilarious, “they said I wasnt in trouble but who believes a group of pastors.”

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you for appreciating my humor, Ashley. 🙂

  • mike

    Here in Vancouver, Canada that would be unthinkable. Scandalous even. But so needed…
    What will that look like? Will you be working with Restored Hope?
    That is great news Dean! God is good and still concerned about SGA’d folk. That news encourages me. May He prosper you!

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you for the blessing, Mike! I believe that it’s going to look a lot initially like educating church leaders to adjust their perspectives. Then empowering them to lead their congregations to do the same. I’m so excited about what God is going to do through this!

  • naturgesetz

    “We want you to help us reach LGBT people — inside this church, inside this city, and perhaps across the nation.”

    How I wish the Catholic Church would do something like this!

    • Dean Samuels

      I second that prayer. And I’m praying for the chance to work with churches of all denominations to embrace this.

  • mistaken identity

    Dean, that is so exciting! I can certainly understand the bathroom bawling. What an awesome responsibility and unexpected blessing! My wife and I pray for your marriage often. We will add this possible ministry to the requests. As the ministry develops, and you become aware of specific needs, please notify me on the FB side. We would love to support this. God richly bless your pastors!

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you so much for the prayers, MI! They are felt and appreciated. Will definitely be having updates for everyone on this as it progresses.

    • When you set up this ministry, let me know and I will put a link on my blog.
      tvmasterc@gmail.com

  • Dean Samuels

    Thanks, Matt! I will definitely be excited to share those stories- who know who God is going to bring along. 🙂

  • Kevin Frye

    I’ll basically just echo what everyone else is saying here: YAY! Congratulations! That’s so exciting!

  • Fred

    That’s so awesome, Dean!

    I definitely personally feel like ministry will somehow make it’s way into my life and God seems to push me towards it, I just don’t know how. And I’m not the type of person who is afraid of sharing my story, so hopefully it will be incorporated!

    I will pray for you, Dean, that God would use you to further his cause in unimaginably great ways! Congratulations, brother!

  • Back on Memorial day, the Holy Spirit told me to deliver a message of celibacy to the gay church here. To tell the truth: I WAS TERRIFIED! I devoted myself to a life of celibacy thirteen years ago, going out of my way to avoid and dealings with other homosexuals, so I wouldn’t be tempted. I did not want to go. I even told God so. He said that I was the only one who could deliver this message, because of my past. I still argued and then looked up, expecting a whale to drop out of the sky and devour me. So I went. I gave them the message to encourage celibacy, to take up their cross and of my past. I also told them that all the good works they do are for nothing unless they commit to God’s commandments. I don’t know how well it was received as these are side A people. The Holy Spirit told me it wasn’t my place to know or even ‘convert’ them, just to give the message.

    On the other hand my blog has reached 7300 views. I never expect this as I felt no one would be interested in what I had to say. I have given my testimony to three different churches in the last few months; I am told it has given hope to many others. It is strange to me how and when God calls us to do His work. I thought myself to be unworthy because of my past. I was wrong.

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you for sharing this story, Bradley! And I will definitely would love to have you share this ministry on your blog once it is ready!

  • Eddie

    Kudos Dean on this new ministry opportunity for you!!! I hope your efforts will help lay the framework for reaching the LGBT community with the Gospel.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    This is beautiful. I’ve been in a similar meeting… with way less awesome conversation…
    But THIS – to have a church support… and even push you MORE into your calling, wow. Love that your church is about that, cares for you, realizes your strength and potential.. and recognizes the need. Praying for you, your wife and your church.

    • Dean Samuels

      I’m sorry your meeting was not quite as awesome, Kevin. I have had similar meetings go less well. Thank you for your support and prayers!

  • Joseph Tanel

    That’s so cool that your church is doing that! Congrats!! I hope my Church here in Mississauga could do something like that. It would be great to have some open support from local parishes. We need more people like you!!! I hope God guides you on this great new path!

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you, Jospeh! I pray God works in your church- in this area and in its continued outreach to its entire community!

  • Has God spoken any sort of “calling” into your life? Does your church support you or do you feel unsupported by the church? Tough question, Dean.

    I will start by saying that, second to God himself, my wife was the one who seemed to pull some sense of a calling out of me. She has been one of my greatest inspirations and supporters along the way, and also one of my greatest frustrations when she just doesn’t seem to “get” me. But I know beyond any doubt that she loves me very deeply to have put up with me for these 25+ years of marriage.

    I feel inspired to share my story to help other men who struggle with these issues. I had to figure so much of it out on my own, alone, confused and afraid in the journey. I don’t want other men to have to face figuring all of this out on their own, like I had to.

    The first time I ever wrote down my “story” as a sort of testimony, it amounted to a one-page typed document. We’d had a guest speaker in Church one Wednesday evening in 2001, and the notion to put our testimony to paper had come from that sermon.

    America Online had a community of user-created web pages back then, called Hometown AOL. So I published my story of redemption from homosexuality to that online community. And to my surprise, people started finding it, reading it, and communicating back to me about it with encouragement, and more questions.

    I learned early on to adjust to lots of hate-mongering and criticism over it as well. If any of you have attempted to share your own stories publically, then you also know that ugliness and accusations come with the territory, especially from LGBT activists. But I digress.

    Something else I noticed was that the men who were actually seeking genuine answers and information from me, many of them were asking the same questions. So I began to expand my one-page testimony, question by question, by answering those issues from my personal perspective, with regard to each one. And over the next 10 years, that one-page “story” grew to the size of a 300-page book! It was my beloved wife who first suggested to me that I should actually turn it all into a book.

    Fast forward to 2011, and that is when I began the self-editing process to turn it into a self-help book for men who struggle with SSA issues and homosexual addictions. It was published late that year under the title, “Beyond the Shades of Gray,” and it is still available for free online at the link below, in its original online format.

    As to answering the question of support from my home church and pastor, quite honestly, I’ve had mixed emotions about that, and I’ve had to navigate through some really “mixed signals” regarding that specific issue.

    On the one hand, the book store in my home church carries my book on the shelf, and my pastor knows my personal testimony. But on the other hand, my pastor has never invited me to speak to the congregation over the issue of my testimony… not even once. And I’ve certainly offered to! But that has been the least of my frustration concerning what’s been communicated to the congregation regarding any homosexual or SSA issues.

    The real problem and frustration for me is that nothing at all gets communicated regarding these issues… not even during the in-our-faces Obergefel SCOTUS ruling wherein 5 lawyers essentially forced “gay marriage” upon our entire Nation. My own heart absolutely screams “pastoral negligence” whenever I consider this fact. And I am personally at great odds with the intentional avoidance, because the congregation is free to flounder and be influenced from the unbiblical perspective of our culture on these issues, instead of from a biblical and pastoral perspective.

    I’ve been weighing the pros and cons quite heavily over these past two years, considering whether I even belong there anymore, and of course, also praying and seeking the Lord for some clearer direction there. If it were my decision alone and didn’t also impact my family, I believe I’d have found another home church home, already.

    http://www.beyondtheshadesofgray.org

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you for sharing your story and journey, my fellow Dean! Praying you can find God’s leading as you weigh these decisions.

  • C. Marque

    Wow, this is huge Dean! :O I’ll be praying for you on this!