Today marks 7 years that I have been pastor of Immanuel Southern Baptist Church in Wagoner, OK. My first official service was a Wednesday evening.
|Me in my office in March 2008|
Previous to being a pastor, I was a missionary with the International Mission Board for more than a decade. I had never pastored before coming to ISBC.
|Sally & me playing special music one evening|
I've learned a great deal about myself in the past 7 years. I've more aware of my weaknesses and weak tendencies. I've learned a great deal about God; that's for sure. And I've learned a lot about people; Christians, in particular.
|Recently donated box trailer|
I've seen God work in this small congregation in wonderful ways. I've seen the devil at work here, too. I've seen self-sacrifice of the dedicated and I've seen the self-serving of the worldly. Some of the nicest things that have ever been said to me have been said in the past 7 years at this church. Some of the worst things that have ever said to me or about me have been said in the same 7 years at this church.
|Our beautiful sanctuary|
Sometimes, it seems like it is two steps forward - one step back. Yet God has been faithful through all of my time here. We've had some disastrous experiences with youth leaders. We've gone through several song leaders. We have a hard time getting people to work with very young children. We've faced several major crises that have threatened the life of the church. We are currently experiencing a horrific budget shortfall.
|Our first VBS|
|Our most recent VBS|
I've seen a few people get mad and leave the church. Usually, they are mad at me (generally blaming me for something) and cause a lot of problems after the leave (but not as many as they caused when they were here).
|Falls Creek 2014|
Despite the problems, there are many more wonderful victories. We've seen our youth and children's groups grow from 2 or 3 to 25 each! There were weeks at a time when no one drove our church vans; they are being used 3 or 4 times each week! For the first time in the history of our church, we had our own cabin at our children's camp this year taking a total of 31 people from the church (which includes adults). We are about to build a new Children's Ministry Center next month. We are experiencing growth in all areas of Sunday School and have started 4 or 5 new classes in the past several years. Our Vacation Bible School continues to grow. Our Food Pantry Ministry provides over 140,000 meals per year to needy folks from our community. We've seen many saved and baptized as a result of this ministry. In fact, this past Sunday, I baptized 15 people who had been saved through the pantry, VBS, or one of our camps.
As God allows, we will accomplish a lot for His kingdom in the coming years. We plan on ordaining two men to the Gospel Ministry in October. We have a long range plan which includes outreach to the Hispanic community, community education, and perhaps even partnering with an orphanage in the Middle East. As long as our members continue to seek to serve God and His kingdom, He will continue to use us.
I am grateful for the privilege of pastoring this flock. I do not take it lightly, nor do I take it for granted. It is a great responsibility that God has given me. I am grateful that He has seen fit to use me here. May God (continue to) bless Immanuel Southern Baptist Church!
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