Teddy Ray, Lead Pastor at Offerings First UMC in Lexington, Ky., had been pastoring for 10 years before he knew he was called to ministry. In fact, he took a year-long mission sabbatical to Spain and initially turned down the pastoral role at Offerings when he and his family were preparing to return to the U.S. He thought that decision would bring relief. Instead, it brought nothing but grief.
“I lost my appetite, and I couldn’t sleep,” Teddy said. “I had this recurring Voice in my head: ‘What do you think you’re going to go do?’”
Until that point, Teddy would have said his work with the church was “right and good,” but wouldn’t have described it as calling. Over the month of discernment that followed, Teddy realized being a pastor wasn’t just “good,” it was what God had designed him to do.
“Our first calling is to Christ and to serve, and it doesn’t matter if you’re an ordained pastor,” Teddy said, referencing Os Guiness. “It’s about being a human being. When you were created, you were called to obedience. Our second calling, similar to Moses or Paul, is a special calling that God has given, not to just anyone, but to you.”
In 2004, Teddy, who had grown up in First UMC in Lexington, officially joined the staff, beginning the evening service at Offerings. Few people were interested. While most pastors would have moved to a different initiative, the lead pastor at First UMC encouraged Teddy to grow a healthy community.
Offerings then transitioned to morning services to provide another worship option within the First UMC family that also has communities at Andover and Downtown. Teddy graduated from Asbury Seminary in 2012 and continued to pastor at Offerings until 2013. During that time, he’d been reading Leviticus about taking a sabbatical year.
“I’m always one to bring home weird ideas and move on to a new idea the next day,” Teddy laughed. “But after five to six times, my wife asked if we should pray about it. I said, ‘No! That’s nuts!’”
But pray they did. In 2014, Teddy and his family took a mission sabbatical with One Mission Society to Spain. His position as pastor at Offerings was divided between two people and he thought he would transition to a completely non-pastoral role when he returned.