The story of our Acts 29 assessment journey (because it was most certainly a journey—complete with breakdowns, obstacles, and detours) is a testament to God’s grace and kindness even as he closes doors we have put everything we’ve got into opening.
My husband, Sergei, and I went through our first assessment with the Acts 29 in the summer of 2015. We had spent 4 years in ministry with church plants, and had always felt that God had set us on a course for planting a church ourselves one day. We came to our assessment ready to throw ourselves headlong into church-planting in Loveland, Colorado.
I had watched my husband go through the growing pains of the early years of ministry and the long and laborious hours of discipleship and development that church planting requires.
I had seen him pore over seminary studies in the dark hours of the morning so that he could spend time with our newborn son when he woke in the morning.
I had been with him as he thoughtfully and prayerfully filled out the Acts 29 application.
In short, I had seen him give so much of his time and energy into preparing for the calling he sensed on his life. And I could see that calling myself, and I praised God for his faithfulness in guiding us so clearly.
So when the assessment ended, we walked to our car in utter dismay. We had gone into the day’s interviews with buoyant hope and expectation, believing we were faithfully following God’s calling upon our lives, and we came out deflated and confused. The questions were not abstruse, the interviewers were gentle and helpful guides, and yet we found ourselves staring at a closed door.
The assessment report came back with recommendations for us to pursue specific areas of growth before being reassessed in a couple of years. It meant, “not now,” but to us it also blared “maybe not ever.”
I questioned what God could possibly be doing. Didn’t He see the years of faithful service my husband had put into preparing for this? Hadn’t He guided us on this path? How could this be loving, pulling us along then slamming the door in our faces?
What we couldn’t see then was what we wonderfully know now: God used our assessment to prepare us for a place and ministry we didn’t even have on our horizon.
He used the wisdom of the men and women assessing us to show us that we were not ready for church planting—yet. That we still had room to grow, especially when it came to our knowledge of ourselves (a humbling admission to make, but a necessary one).
He used this process to change our course for His glory—and our joy!
Within two years of that first assessment, we began to sense that Loveland was not the place God had designed us to minister to. Without the pause our assessment gave us, we would have devastatingly discovered this right in the middle of church-planting. As it was, we were safe to make these discoveries while still training and growing under the umbrella of our sending church.
The nearby city of Greeley, Colorado, came on our radar through a series of indescribable, God-ordained events. We began praying seriously about whether God was moving us in a direction we had not been looking. One of the recommendations from our original assessment was that my husband gain experience as an elder at our church for a couple years. As an elder, he was able to seek advice from his fellow elders who encouraged us to pursue Greeley through prayer, and they enabled my husband to spend some of his work days there.
It quickly became apparent that this was indeed where God was leading us. Our life stories and experiences had perfectly prepared us for ministry to the different groups of people in Greeley.
It was time for a follow-up assessment. This one was quite unlike the first—it was much shorter, more casual, and the results were completely reversed; but like the first, it was conducted with wisdom and it was used by God to point us to the work he had prepared for us. The pastors who interviewed us—some of the same who had conducted our initial assessment—confirmed our new sense of calling and gave us the green light for Kingdom work with the Acts 29 in Greeley.
The assessment process was not pain-free, but it was deeply important to our development and in guiding us into the realm of ministry God had prepared for us. Our assessments—both of them—were instruments of God’s grace to us.