By Catie Stewart
Jody Schmelzer had spent over nine years investing in his local church in Madison, Mississippi, when God called him to uproot his life completely. For him and his family, that meant abandoning their comfortable home and moving 150 miles away to do something they had never done. God called them to obey, and that obedience was going to come with a lot of hard work and dedication.
Jody and his wife Alison, now married for 15 years, have spent many years planting roots in the Pinelake Church of Madison. Serving as associate pastor, Jody has followed God’s calling faithfully. But when he heard the Lord call him once more, the message was quite different: this time, the Lord was calling him to plant a Pinelake Church in Oxford, Mississippi. “I sensed the Lord beginning to reveal to me that this could be a potential opportunity for the future,” Jody says. He knew that the timing was not right—but he waited patiently for the Lord to prepare a way.
He continued to serve as associate pastor of the Madison campus while the idea of planting a new church in Oxford began to further capture his heart. Finally, this past February, the Lord revealed to Jody through His word and answered prayers that He was calling him to uproot his life for the expansion of the kingdom. “It was somewhat difficult at first,” Jody says. “However, the calling was so clear and the confirmations so evident that I knew I had to say yes to this opportunity.” He knew that saying no would mean disobedience to the Lord, so he decided to blindly follow.
Once Jody had made up his mind to carry out this calling, he and his wife, Alison, agreed that the first step would be talking to their senior leadership at Pinelake and praying—incessantly—over this process. To Jody, prayer is the key component in the foundation of any new church plant. “If we ask in faith and believe without doubting, God will show up in amazing ways,” he says, thinking of James 1:6.
When deciding to carry out God’s calling, Jody had much more to think about than his and his wife’s lives—he had to think about his four young children. In our May 2014 issue, the Schmelzers were featured in an article all about the Lord’s calling to adopt their fourth child from Ethiopia with faithful obedience back in 2010. Now, more than five years later, the Schmelzers are following God’s calling to adoption again—but this time it’s the adoption of a new church family. “Looking back on His faithfulness gives me hope for the future,” says Jody when thinking about this new journey of obedience. “I know it is going to be a lot of hard work and long hours, but I truly believe that the Lord has been preparing me for this over the past few years.”
Jody knows that his role as a father will always come before his role as a pastor. “I believe the greatest ministry any dad has in front of him is within the walls of his own home,” he says. “I am certain that God has called me to be a husband first, a father second, and a pastor third.” He knows that moments will come in which these roles collide, but he is prepared to set healthy boundaries and make sure that he is listening to the Lord and waiting for Him to guide his decisions.
Jody’s parenting has prepared him for this new position in the church in many ways. Since he is called to be the spiritual leader of his family as a father, the calling to be a spiritual leader of his church family is not too unfamiliar. Parenting has also taught him to be flexible and to give his children the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. Similarly, the process of planting a church is unpredictable and challenging, so flexibility is paramount as the church grows.
Prayer is something that Jody holds dear and believes to be of the utmost importance in the growth of his own family as well as in the growth of his future church family. “Being a dad has increased my prayer life in a lot of ways,” he says. “Just as I am praying for and over my own children, I believe the Lord is calling me to be a prayer warrior for our future congregation.”
Jody’s life is a testament to obedience and faithfulness. The journey that God has called him to undertake has already taught him so much about his faith and about the Lord’s calling in his life. He has learned that God’s timing is always perfect, and that His calling always requires an active step of faith. To Jody, being obedient to the Lord’s calling is a way to honor Him. “As we take steps of faith, He receives the glory and we get to live out the joy and blessing of a life of obedience,” he says.
Being obedient can mean a lot of things, and it can look different depending on the person. For Jody, obeying God’s calling meant leaving the home that he loved and abandoning the roots with which he had grown comfortable. But he is certain that the Lord will provide and be glorified. “Letting go brings us back to a place of surrender—and that’s exactly where He wants us to be!”