26 years

Last Sunday evening, I was serving communion in our church.  If you asked me 26 years ago what I would be doing, that would probably be the furthest thing from my mind.

26 years ago on a Tuesday evening, in a small classroom adjacent to the church auditorium, I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ.   26 years ago I was in my senior year of high school not sure what I was going to do with my life.  26 years ago, I was confronted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I was baptized seven months later that same year.

Life has not been a life of ease since that time.  It has and still does have its blessings and its challenges.  I am thankful that I have been a member of three different Baptist churches in three different locations.  I have had five different men in those churches whom I have called “Pastor”.

I had the opportunity to go away to Bible College, graduated after four years, then found myself at the age of 23 again faced with the prospect of not knowing what I was going to do with my life.  I had already expressed a call to preach shortly after salvation.  Bible College served as a preparation and a training.  What I did not realize was that when you are 23 and unmarried, no one wants to hire you.  I am not a dynamic speaker and do not have a charismatic personality.  I had a desire to serve God and a degree.  I was also ordained by my home church in 1992 after I had completed Bible college, seemed like the next logical step for the church to validate and affirm my gifts and abilities to serve in local church ministry.  I could not go back home because the economy was in shambles (sound familiar), so I stayed where I was at the secular job that I had and did not particularly like, but I needed it to pay the bills, always having a longing to fulfill the calling on my life that I had made public back in 1987.  In 1999, I had an opportunity to go into full-time vocational ministry at a missions agency.  I was excited about the opportunity to go into ministry, a bit scared because of the drastic cut to my income, and wondering if this was going to be it for me.

Serving at the missions agency was a good and bad experience.  Good because it made me get out of my comfort zone and I was able to travel and do some preaching.  Bad because there was a lot of dysfunction within the organization (it existed long before my arrival).  As I served, I detected that I needed further training. I had always wanted to pursue  more education beyond my Bachelors Degree, but the opportunities were never available in the context and location where I was at the time.  Through a series of events and circumstances, the Lord opened a door for me to leave my position at the mission agency and move to MN to attend seminary.

I left Jacksonville, FL 14 years to the day I had arrived.  It was a bittersweet departure.  I was excited because I was embarking on a new journey, but at the same time I was leaving a place that was like home to me since I had spent almost half of my life there.

Seminary was a different experience for me.  When I started, I learned that there was a lot that I needed to learn.  I had not been in a classroom in a formal education setting since college, ten years earlier.  I also was in the process of really trying figure out what I really believed instead of parroting what I had been taught without thinking through both sides of the theological issues that I was confronted with in my seminary classes and in my life.

Fast forward a bit, I met my wife while in seminary and we were married in 2004 and had our first child in 2006.  Lost a child and my mother later that same year. Almost quit seminary at that point because I was overwhelmed.  Glad that I did not quit, I graduated with my first degree in 2008 (M.A. in Theology).  Continued on to finish my MDiv. in 2010.  I honestly did not think that I would finish.  I was working 40-50 hours a week and taking a low class load, but the Lord allowed me to finish.

Now, almost three years removed from finishing my last degree, I find myself in a similar situation that I was in back in 1992.  In 1992, I was 23, unmarried and had no pastoral or ministerial experience.  Now in 2013, I am 43, married with two children, and too far removed from my last full-time vocational ministry assignment and no pastoral experience.  When I finished college, people told me that I was  too young and had no experience.  Now 20 years later, I am older and still have no pastoral experience.  Churches now are setting the standard much higher with any hire that they make, most are looking for a minimum of 5 years of pastoral ministry experience and that is even for an assistant or associate pastor.

I look back from where I am now and realize that it all started on that day in February where I was confronted with my own sinfulness and depravity and under great conviction called upon the Lord to save me and that was the beginning of the journey that I wrote about above (omitting lots of other details)





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