In 2005, I had as clear a direction from God as I’ve ever had on anything.
“A call to preach,” “a call to the ministry,” “a call on my life.”
Whatever you call it, the message was clear: God wanted me to be a minister of the Gospel and He wanted me to live that calling out as a pastor of a local church.
After a few years of itinerant preaching, I was able to fulfill that call on my life at Crestview Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, from 2009 to 2012, as a bi-vocational pastor. I’m not 100% sure I was as prepared to pastor as I should have been. But I loved the people and the work. I think the people appreciated me, my preaching, and my ministry. In any event, it was definitely a wonderful training ground.
I resigned that position to better and more fully prepare myself for serving in ministry full time. When I did, I don’t think I realized how long it would be until I had the opportunity to serve as pastor. Nor do I think I fully appreciated how quickly that next opportunity would actually come.
Now, I’m less than 48 hours away from officially taking the reigns as pastor of McConnell Road Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC. And I still don’t know that I’m 100% prepared as I’d like to be in order to be an effective pastor.
After all, it is the church of Jesus Christ we’re talking about. And she is a pretty big deal to Him.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of the water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27
But by God’s own words (spoken through the writing of the apostle Paul), my being “less than” in some ways actually qualifies me even more.
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.” I Corinthians 1:25-29
Either way, it’s happening.
The church voted heavily in favor of calling me as their next pastor. I’ve accepted the call. I’ve been preaching for them for over a month now. My family and I have joined the church. All that remains is making it official with an “installation” service on Sunday morning, December 31, 2017.
No, it’s not a requirement or even our tradition. But it does allow me and the church to mark an official “passing of the baton” from the man who faithfully served as an interim for over a year after the passing of the beloved former pastor to the man who we all believe God has called to be the next pastor.
So it’s a big deal to me. And it hits especially hard if I think about it for any length of time. And the feeling that comes is a mix of panic and excitement, worry and delight, stress and peace.
I have a ton of ideas. I have a million thoughts. I have all sorts of plans.
And, Lord willing, I’ll have an opportunity to play some of those out, working alongside of the godly, Christ-loving men and women of McConnell Road Baptist. And I’m sure even more ideas will come–from me and from them–over time.
But now really isn’t the time for any of that. For over a decade now, I’ve been preaching one basic message. It’s a shaded, nuanced message that deserves to be examined from all sorts of angles; but it’s just one message just the same.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” I Corinthians 2:1-2
That message: Jesus is everything that we need.
And I pray that God will keep me focused on sharing, showing, and explaining that message to the folks at McConnell Road Baptist and the surrounding community. Because that’s the message that will actually make a difference for real people with real needs.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” I Corinthians 1:18
So, now that I’m the pastor, I still have just the one message: Christ in the Scriptures.