1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (NASB)
October 12, 2014 was one of those Sundays.
It began at 8:30 in the sanctuary with the deacons. We were celebrating the Lord’s Supper that morning and needed to review assignments.
Next, I taught for one of our adult Sunday school teachers. I accused him of ducking out on purpose, since the text was Hebrews 6:1-8.
The worship service included a short-ish sermon from Romans 8:9-11, to prepare us for the Lord’s Supper. The ordinance was a worshipful time.
After lunch at home with Donna and the girls, I headed back out for a hospital visit.
Later that afternoon, I officiated a wedding.
Leaving the wedding, I managed to walk into our evening service after the opening welcome. Fortunately, by God’s grace I believe, we had a guest speaker.
I finished the day with our monthly deacon’s meeting.
It was one of those Sundays.
I’m not sure what I was doing on October 12, 2004. But, I do know it wasn’t anything like 2014. In October 2004, I was a third year seminary student, occasionally filling the pulpit at my home church and others. Just over a month later, my life changed.
Ten years ago tomorrow, November 21st, 2004, I began my ministry as the pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Bartlett, TN.
Reflecting on these ten years it is so obvious how God has blessed me. He has given me a great family and two great churches.
I am most grateful for Donna’s support during this first decade. For six of these ten years, I was a student. My life was late nights, early mornings (sometimes back to back), and impending deadlines. She always encouraged me. And, even more than that, she proofread all of my papers. That poor woman has reviewed class presentations, seminar papers, and a dissertation. In the midst of supporting me, she has been a godly mother to our four girls. I thank God for Donna.
My family has a lot do with any success I’ve had since 2004. Donna, the girls, and I would not have been able to do much of what we’ve done without my parents and Donna’s.
When I began seminary, I didn’t know anything about anything. The professors at Mid-America taught me how to be a pastor. I’m especially grateful for Dr. Tim Seal and Dr. Jere Phillips.
Other pastors have had a large impact on my ministry. John Allen gave me many opportunities to preach and minister, while being an example of a true shepherd. Chuck Herring and Danny Sinquefield continue to be friends and mentors. I owe much to these men.
I can never fully express my gratitude towards the people of Fellowship Baptist. I was honored to be their pastor for 8 ½ years. They endured my early preaching and pastoral ministry with grace and encouragement.
It was at Fellowship that I learned to love people. Our Associate Pastor, David Bock, constantly reminded me that our calling is always about people. This lesson can’t be learned in a seminary classroom. It’s learned in the hospitals, the funeral homes, and the personal conversations. God taught me that through David.
Because of what God taught me at Fellowship, when the time came, I was ready to embrace another group of God’s people. When others ask me about Meridian Baptist Church, I always say that I could not have handpicked a better situation. The church has embraced my family and me. I’m blessed to be the pastor.
When God moved us from Bartlett to Jackson, His plan for our lives varied from His normal design. Fellowship and Meridian are quite different. In fact, whenever I tell other preachers about the change in my ministry their reaction is normally, “really, you almost never hear about that kind of move.” I have no explanation for why God chose to do this, but I’m grateful that He entrusted me to shepherd Meridian.
This first decade has convinced me of two things.
First, pastoring is as much about presence as anything. People invite me into the most important events in their lives. I’ve held newborn children and stood bedside as loved ones passed away. I’ve led people to Christ and hurt as church members grieve over lost family. I’ve performed weddings and listened to marital difficulties. In all of this, I don’t always know what to say. I do know, however, that being there is more important than words.
Second, there is no substitute for expository preaching and teaching. I’m sure I’m leaving something out as I think about this, but I know I’ve preached through Luke, James (3 times), Colossians, Malachi, Ephesians, Genesis, John 1-5, John 13-17, Haggai, Ezra and Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 Peter, and 1,2, 3 John. Plus teaching through, either during Sunday school or on Sunday or Wednesday night, Exodus 1-21, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Daniel, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Revelation. Plus, preaching non-series expository messages from many other Bible books.
God has used and continues to use this teaching and preaching to change lives. The Bible transforms us. It convicts the sinner and grows the saint. I’ve had countless conversations with God’s people about Him using His Word to encourage, challenge, and convict them. I merely report what God has said. He does the changing. I am so grateful for my calling to bring His message to His people each week.
So, ten years down and however many more to go.
I can’t wait to see what He’s going to do in this next decade.