In Focus: Following God’s Lead
by Mark Mueller
When I was four years old, my family moved from Cincinnati to a rural town in Indiana. My dad had accepted a position as pastor at a little country church in the middle of southern Indiana farmland. We lived in the country in between two small towns, each about a twenty-minute drive away. During our time there I was blessed to witness my father shepherd the flock he was entrusted with. I have fond memories of playing inside the church building on rainy days and hitting a whiffle ball with my brother over the graveyard fence.
During our time there the church grew in numbers and they built some new classroom space and a real office for my dad. After about ten years my dad accepted a position back in Cincinnati. I remember a discussion we had at that time about why he was leaving. My dad said he had done what he felt God had called him to do there and it was time to follow God’s leading somewhere else.
In the ensuing years my dad served in several different churches in the Cincinnati area. I have always found it interesting as to why people choose to leave a church. As the son of a pastor I did leave several churches, but it was not a choice I made. When my dad was called somewhere else, we went, much like children of military personnel or someone that works for Proctor and Gamble.
In 1989 I met the love of my life, and we got married. My wife had lived in Mason her whole life. After we were married, she asked me one day, “Where do you want to live?” I was fascinated with the idea of living where she had grown up, so we stayed in Mason. She had been a member at Christ’s Church back when it was called Mason Church of Christ and was down Western Row Rd. a few miles. So it was natural for us to attend this church as a married couple.
Focusing on the Main Thing
Over the last thirty years I have had the privilege to serve alongside some really awesome people. Even though I have attended church my whole life, I have found that sometimes it is easy to find I am focusing on the wrong thing. As a Jesus follower, I know his mission is to bring all people into a relationship with him, and I am called to be a part of that process—but from time to time I still find myself focusing on the wrong thing.
Churches are in a constant state of change, as is necessary. Adapting to the culture, staff members coming and going, youth programming, leadership strategies, and style and décor of the worship experience are all things that change. With the recent pandemic, church has changed a lot, hasn’t it? Sometimes these changes distract me from what I should be focusing on.
Looking back at the churches where I have attended, the things that I remember most are the relationships and experiences I had while serving or being served. When I was in high school, I signed up to go on a mission trip to Haiti. It was led by our youth minister and one of the elders. On our trip we worked on a construction site helping the in-country missionaries build a hospital/clinic. Who knew I would be working in a hospital some day? I’m sure God knew that!
One day while we were working, four jeeps with armed men stormed in and all jumped out and spread throughout the site. The guns were not pointed but at the ready. We were asked to stop all construction and leave the worksite, which we did. It was a crazy time and through that experience I got to see the heart of our leaders. Their commitment to the mission and our physical safety and spiritual growth has been something that was vital to my walk with Jesus.
Not all my experiences as a student were that intense but the impact of my time in that ministry has had a lasting effect on my walk with Jesus. Joey no longer lives close to me and I do not see him often, but I know I could pick up the phone any time and say I need to talk, and he would be there to listen. Ron is still in the area and continues to be an influence in my life. We have been in studies at church together and his wisdom and faith still encourage my spiritual walk.
It Starts with a Simple Yes
It wasn’t long after we started attending Christ’s Church together that my wife and I began to volunteer within the student ministry. Over the years we have worked with some awesome youth coaches and students. When people tell you that when you are a part of a ministry you get more out of it than you give, they could not be more correct. Over the past twenty plus years, we have been involved with multiple retreats and trips as well as countless Bible studies. I can’t remember any of the lessons I led, but I can tell you the names of the students I still have a relationship with. Some of the greatest blessings I have gained have been through these relationships. I no longer call them my students but my friends.
I vividly remember when former youth minister Dan Giese stopped at our house to ask if my wife and I would be willing to join his ministry as youth coaches. At the time, I had no idea what that conversation would lead us to. I cannot adequately describe what it is like to see a student have that moment when they first meet Jesus and understand how that relationship will change their life forever—but I’ve seen it many times, and I will never forget it.
I have discovered the key to growing in my own walk with Jesus starts with one simple word . . . Yes!
“Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8, NLT).
Mark Mueller is a pediatric oncology nurse, father of three grown children, grandpa to four grandkids, and in addition to discipling high school students, he has served as an elder at Christ’s Church for many years.