“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
I sensed God’s call to serve Him in vocational ministry as a high school student. Growing up in a small fellowship of churches, I had a minimal view of what Christian service could be. Would I become a pastor, a youth minister, a music guy, or an associate pastor? These were the only possibilities I knew.
While studying at Criswell College, I thought I had found the answer with my first ministry position as an Associate Pastor at a small church in Garland. It was a “combo position” that included music ministry, teaching, door-to-door outreach, mowing, cleaning, and anything else I needed to do. We even renovated an old building with just three staff and some volunteer work from church members. It was a learning experience in many ways.
Little did I know that more significant lessons awaited me after leaving that first position.
I had a plan to return to seminary to further my education while I gained experience as an intern at a large church. However, I was surprised and disappointed when opportunities that seemed so sure slowly evaporated, leaving me without a clear direction. I wanted to serve the Lord, learn how to serve more effectively, and give Him my best. Why weren’t things working out?
After more than a year without finding full-time work, much less a full-time ministry position, I was looking for anything that might be God’s plan for my life. That plan was not revealed in a vision or significant moment. Instead, it unfolded one step at a time as I prayed with a desire to trust the Lord even when I didn’t understand my situation.
Little steps of faith eventually led to a career as a Special Education teacher—something I never had as part of my plan. When I started teaching, I had no idea how long that season would last, and I certainly didn’t know that God was using that season of uncertainty, confusion, and change to lead me further in a direction I would never have imagined on my own.
While teaching middle school kids with autism, I devised a coping strategy to help them deal with difficult circumstances and emotions. Even minor setbacks can elicit a major shutdown for kids with social and emotional difficulties. To help my students get “unstuck,” we would teach them to “do the next right thing.”
Instead of solving the whole problem or dealing with the flood of feelings, focus on one thing you know is the right thing to do. After you do that right thing, see if you can think of the NEXT right thing. One right thing at a time, you can move through the time of trouble and end up on the right track.
This strategy was very much what God had used to change my tiny view of what His call on my life could be. He led me into Special Needs Ministry one “next right thing” at a time. I tried to approach my work in the school as a ministry to my students and their families. It wasn’t long before I got the opportunity to serve as the Interim Director of the Special Friends Ministry to adults with special needs at First Baptist Dallas. After 16 years as a full-time Special Ed teacher and part-time church staff member, I was offered an incredible opportunity. This position was one I would never have foreseen or even desired when my first ministry position ended 20 years earlier. I was to become the full-time Minister of Special Needs Ministries at my church.
Answering God’s call in any area of life requires faith and faithfulness—not only in the big decisions but in the day-to-day as we seek to follow Him. When we “do the next right thing” for His glory, it’s always a win.
Questions for Thought
- Are you seeking to follow Jesus in every area of your life?
- Have you been in a season where God’s path for you seemed unclear?
Whether it’s a huge step of faith or a seemingly small step of obedience, do the next right thing in your life to follow the Savior—do it TODAY.
Learn more about Mission 1:8 WIN NOW here!
Minister of Special Needs Ministry
Gary has served First Baptist Dallas in the Special Needs Ministry for over 15 years. His mission is to ensure our church family has a place for everyone. He enjoys seeing kids and adults with special needs grow in their faith and worship the Lord with inspiring enthusiasm. Gary and his wife, Jennifer, have four incredible children.