From the moment I first pulled into the parking lot with Bro Bill Sherrill, Director of Missions for the Muskogee Baptist Association, I knew I was going to be the pastor here.
My first contact with anyone was with the interim pastor, Bro Bill Crow. We had a nice visit which encouraged me to get in touch with the search committee. Within a few minutes of visiting with Betty Rice, I think we both knew it was God's plan for us.
Excitement grew as I came and preached one Sunday. An unexpected hiccup occurred when I picked up the bulletin and discovered they were planning for me to preach that evening, too! I muddled through something, if I remember right.
I'll readily admit I became skeptical of this being the church (isn't that like Satan to put doubt in your mind?) Just like Peter, when he was walking on the water towards Jesus, I put my eyes on the things of this world. I looked at what I thought was reality; that is, how in the world could a small church support my family? My skepticism carried over in my attitude and there was one or two on the search committee that thought all I cared about was money. I truly regret that part of the process.
But God was greater and His will prevailed! I really, really wanted to be the pastor here, but I was afraid of what they would offer. I had a salary amount in mind, but their offer actually exceeded what I had in mind. It is a good thing, too, for, in retrospect, we could have never survived on what my initial ideas where! I had been living for too long outside the US and simply didn't know what it took to live here!
I remember my first Sunday morning here (of course). There were fewer people here that Sunday than there were when I came in view of a call. That was rather discouraging. There were 25 people here for Sunday morning service. We had no where to go but "up".
I suppose that I am plagued with the same trap that most pastors get into. It is hard to get out of. It is the "numbers game". Attendance and membership is the easiest and most readily available measure of how "I'm doing". I had all kinds of number goals in my mind.
Our attendance has doubled since I have been here. That is do to God working, not me. Last Easter, we had 86 in attendance. Now, I know that those numbers seem mighty low and insignificant to most people, but that was a great cause of celebration for us. It showed me the potential for what was there.
I have given up playing the numbers game. I want to see our church grow, but I don't care so much if it grows in NUMBERS. That is now God's problem. I want to see our church grow in spiritual maturity. I want to see our church grow in love. I want to see our church growing by reaching out to a lost and dying world. If we increase in numbers along the way, then that's fine.
I never thought I would like pastoring, much less love it. The church has been mighty kind to me and my family as we adjust to one another. I mentioned last Wednesday night that it seems like this first year, we have been dancing, getting to know one another. Well, it is time to stop dancing and get to work.
I still don't know why God would chose us for this task. It really isn't mine to know; it is mine to obey. I miss the foreign mission field and all of my colleagues. I miss that way of life. At this point, however, I wouldn't trade this for anything else in the world. At least until God tells me to.
If you are interested in praying for our church, here are some prayer requests:
- We need families with children.
- We need a youth leader.
- We need a minister of music.
- We need young adults.
- We need a unified vision for what God has for us.
Immanuel Southern Baptist Church
611 N. Gertrude Ave.
Wagoner, OK 74467