Sally and I had been serving with the International Mission Board in Hong Kong when I felt God's leadership to shift gears in ministry.
I had never pastored before. I was scared. Yes, as I reflect back on it I was scared. At the same time, I was confident. Certainly not confident in my abilities, but confident in the axiom, "God equips those whom He calls."
|Me, a month or two after I became a pastor.|
I had never pastored a church before. I had only preached less than half a dozen times. My wife later told me that she thought it was going to really be something to watch because, in her opinion, I couldn't preach worth a hill of beans. She has later often told me that God uses me to preach His word in a wonderful way.
Pastoring a church isn't for sissies. There is such a high Scriptural standard that I am held to, by the Lord, and by those I pastor. I will readily admit, I often don't live up to that standard.
In my previous 40 some years experience as a church member, I never knew that the pastor faced so many obstacles and difficulties. There are some nasty people who call themselves Christians. I have been lied to, lied about, gossiped about, slandered, cussed, and called names with words that don't belong in the Family of God.
There are, however, some true saints in the Bride of Christ. There are those who, if a mosquito bit them, it'd fly off singing, "There's Power in the Blood!" These are humble, hard-working servants of God who would do anything for anyone out of love, but avoid the limelight like the plague.
|At my 1 year anniversary|
I've seen people come and go. Some situations were so bizarre that I still don't understand what happened. For instance, several years ago, I baptized an entire family, like mom, dad, and 3 or 4 kids. The very next day, they moved to Arkansas! Some came as flashes in the pan. They caused a big stir, but had no staying power and ultimately caused more trouble than whatever good they initially had.
But it's the faithful ones who are truly beautiful. Those who give without being asked, serve without expectations of being thanked or acknowledged, and share without thought of themselves. Praise God for the faithful ones!
I've seen God work wonders in people's lives, like the time He raised a woman from the dead on Easter morning (LINK) or when someone got saved at a business meeting, or watching lives being completely transformed. I've seen a whole lot of new/weak Christians grow in the Lord and I've watched some train wrecks as they walk in the flesh. Some are so embarrassed that they refuse to attend church or even take my calls.
I do know this: if everyone who has told me that they would be in service, rain or shine, would all show up at once, we'd have to build a balcony and have three services!
I have performed the duties and ceremonies expected of pastors. I have baptized new believers. I have married couples. I have performed funerals. To be honest, I'd much rather perform a funeral than a wedding! There is much less drama. But I LOVE to baptize people. I've baptized over 200 people in the past 10 years. (Where are they now? Inquiring minds would like to know.)
|Baptizing my daughter, Audrey, in 2011.|
God has done a great many wonderful things in our church in the past 10 years. We have a growing and thriving children's and youth ministries, we have a Food Pantry Ministry that distributes food to the hungry to the tune of about 750,000 meals in the past 8 years, and we have a unique jail ministry that we call "The Cookie Ministry" where we take bags of cookies with a gospel tract to the local jail each month. We are currently debt free and are looking to build a new multi-purpose building with designated funds that we've been sitting on for the past 25 years.
|Me, today, on my 10th Anniversary as Pastor of ISBC|
We also have a long way to go. Our financial situation is precarious. Yet, we've never not met our obligations. God has always been faithful with that. I would love to see the expansion of our youth ministry to include a separate class for middle school students. I want to see our YokeFellow and FAITH Rider groups to re-activate. I want a group of folks to step up and help with our children's Sunday School classes. We must have a nursery staff.
I love being a pastor. I LOVE preaching God's word. I love the wonderful folks at Immanuel Southern Baptist Church.
No matter what God has in store for me and for ISBC, we can only pray it is for His glory! For in the end, that's all that really matters!