John Wheeler

June 2, 2021

John had been a pastor for over 40 years.  He was leading a small church which was stuck in many of its old traditions and ways.  As a result, it was struggling to reach new people and younger families.  John was unique in that he was humble and realistic about the situation, and he was open to all sorts of innovative new ideas.  He was a good preacher, and he had a very kind heart.  He and his wife would pray over and over again for God to send harvesters into his field to help them reach their community.

John loved being a pastor.  He had heard stories of pastors burning out and leaving the ministry, and he could not understand this.  He truly loved teaching and preaching God’s Word and shepherding His flock.  There was a time in his career at another church, where he got caught in the middle of some church politics, and he lost his job.  He found himself working in a factory to pay the bills.  It was a very humbling experience, but during that time, he discovered how much his heart still yearned to be a pastor.  So, despite the small numbers at his current church, he was thankful to be used by God.

He was approached, one day, by a much larger, more contemporary church about the possibility of joining forces.  The larger church wanted to help John’s church and at the same time, reach this community where John’s church was located.  John prayed about this possibility and believed this opportunity was an answer to his and his wife’s prayers.  He began to meet with the pastor of the larger church, as well as other ministry leaders.  It was so refreshing to come alongside believers in a true “Kingdom” effort.  One of the men invited John to join a Journey group during the same timeframe.

Immediately, John loved The Journey.  He had taught his congregations about abiding for many years, but this was the first time he ever saw a group of men diving deep into this principle.  He saw a transparency and an authenticity like he had never seen in a group of Christian men.  In the middle of The Journey, John’s church decided they did not like his idea of merging with the larger church.  All of the sudden, they decided John was the problem, and things began to go south.  After some difficult conversations, John decided it was best if he resign.  His heart was broken.

John’s Journey Group rallied around him.  They prayed for him, they cried for him, and they made sure his financial needs were met.  Whereas he felt so rejected by the group of people to whom he had been so devoted for years, he found unconditional love in this group of men with whom he had only recently become acquainted.  It was a very difficult time for John, but his Journey group helped carry his burden.  He prayed for God’s next step in his life.  He was trusting God like never before.

Then, he got a call from the large church.  They wanted to hire him temporarily as one of their pastors.  He was so excited, but he wondered if he would fit into this staff of mostly younger ministers.   Most of these pastors could be John’s kids.  He dove into the challenge with unrelenting faith and a heart for ministry.  It wasn’t long before this church realized the value of John’s wisdom, his Biblical knowledge and the depth of his experiences.  They hired him full-time, and he became a huge blessing to this church and to this staff.  John never envisioned himself being on staff of a large, contemporary church, but he was so thrilled to see all the lives that were being touched. 

The Journey reinforced to John the crucial truth that if we abide in Jesus, He will bear much fruit in our life.  John even wrote some curriculum for his new church about Abiding.  He is now the Counseling Pastor, but he is also a champion for The Journey at his new church.  He has led a few groups now, and he continues to see its power.  He says that for years, he had been looking for something for men, and he had tried every program that came out.  The Journey was what he was waiting for all along. 

John’s story is a great reminder that we never outgrow discipleship in our Christian walk.  We always have much more to learn.  The Journey is a group of men walking closely together with the Lord.  Whether they are seasoned pastors or new believers, new fruit is born as we walk together.  We pray more pastors will allow Influencers to come alongside them to help them and their men.