I have seen many times people say to a new convert, “You’ve got it made now…the hard part is over.” They could not be more wrong, or more dangerous. There is this old myth that life with Christ at the center is an easy life. The fact is, life is still life. Bills mount up, people are still people, and you are still in the flesh. Life is still going to happen, but now it is in fact a life with hope…a hope upheld in the resurrection. In other other words, our hope is eschatological, not immediate.
My journey has very much reflected a progression of growth, progression of frustrations, and yes, a progression in understanding. Today, I simply want to share some of my journey in hopes that it may speak to people at paths along their walk. My journey is no where near the end…and neither is yours.
My journey could go back to birth, but lets flash ahead to when I was 19. At that age I first went to the altar, but it was at the urging of others. This turned predictably into a prompt backsliding and even some bitterness. Life continued on, and in 2003 I finally dropped not at an altar, but at my seat in church. I wept, cried, and sincerely desired a different path than that which I was on. I didn’t understand a lot, but I knew this time that instant change wasn’t going to happen. Perhaps I was a little more aware from my past failures and I simply wanted a future hope. I wanted to live right and I didn’t want to go to hell, and I knew that Christ was the only way for that to happen.
In 2005 I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and in 2006 the call to ministry. This call to ministry is where I will focus, not because of lack of information, but because a personal story sometimes relates better.
My call into ministry was met with resistance…from me. I had watched my dad in ministry, I seen some of the pressures and heartache…and churches trying to starve out a pastor. I wanted no part of it. I tried everything to avoid preaching. And it wasn’t just the things I had witnessed in dad’s ministry, it was equally if not more so the weight of carrying forth the Gospel. That is a very serious call and I shrunk back instead of embracing the fact that God can and will equip those that are called. I tried writing for a website, running my own website; each with the purpose of spreading the Gospel, but both to avoid spreading the Gospel the way God called me to be a minister. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally accepted the call fully, accepting a position as Youth Pastor with a church. This led to me becoming a credentialed (licensed) minister. Actually, that started a path to which I have no idea where it leads in terms of ministry and Kingdom work.
From Youth Pastor I transitioned into a Sr. Associate roles another minister took the Youth Pastor position. Ultimately, the youth were still my responsibility, though I now had other areas of responsibility as well. Things were going well, but little did I know what lay ahead. It is not that difficulties had not arose prior to this, but I just expected difficulties. They were learning experiences…from dealing with people as well as learning from my own mistakes. But the time was just ahead in which I was forced to deal with mistakes of others. After some time as Sr. Associate Pastor I was forced into a role of Interim Pastor in a most tumultuous time in a church. Never mind the dirty details, but the church was torn, hurt, angry, bitter, and more. I was in a place to either overlook the dangerous issues and let others deal with it while keeping my hands clean…or I could do what was right and face the most difficult, hurtful time in my ministry to date. And Lord willing I will NEVER face something of that level again. I chose to do what was right, regardless of the hurt.
After this transition period was over I honestly left that particular church with a deep sense of rejection and a good case of the “church hurt”. That was the end of August/first part of September 2015. In a period of 3 years, 8 months I went from scared but trusting to bitter and hurt Pastor. That is hard to admit, but it is the truth. Less than 4 years and I had run the gamut of ministry that often takes years to experience. I have often asked, Why? But that is not for me to know fully, however I do know God has a backdrop of eternity on which He works, and somewhere all this fits into His plan for things I must pass along in due time to help others. It may be to learn and grow so I will better handle explosive church issues in the future…I simply do not know, but I know that looking back now I am thankful for my experiences. I am thankful I faced what a Regional Bishop in my state said no minister ever wished to face…I am thankful because with God’s Grace and Mercy I come out the other side with a church completely intact, moved on at the appropriate time, and now have the opportunity to serve as Pastor with a fantastic congregation with two budding ministers just answering the call. I now am in a place to serve not only a congregation, but to serve as mentor to other ministers. This has been a vision of mine for quite some time.
I have other desires as well, some are more personal in nature, such as a strong desire to move. I desperately want in a larger, more prosperous area with an academic center. Cleveland, TN would fit the bill nicely as I have just enrolled with Pentecostal Theological Seminary as i finish my final classes with Lee University. That first weekend of May will be very welcomed as I receive a degree in Biblical Studies and Theology. This educational pursuit dovetails nicely with my journey in ministry. As I have advanced in my studies it has been simultaneous with my ministerial growth…and they have both led to one conclusion…I have much to learn. From my little town in Southern West Virginia I have enjoyed studying under some of the greatest minds in Pentecostal scholarship today such as Dr. Terry Cross and Dr. Rob Debelak. Now I am down the same with PTS, having Dr. Roebuck this semester for my one class there.
The past 4 years of my life have prepared me in ways I would have not chosen, nor expected. Some days I set back and feel a little like Joseph in Egypt. God has given me dreams…two specific dreams, that have not come to pass as of yet. In the midst of all that has happened I wonder at times if they will. Somethings have fit in with what I have seen…others are totally off the path of anything that makes sense. Joseph had a dream…and his entire path must have forced him to a spot of being thankful for where he was, but wondering if his dream was dead.
In the end, if I remain faithful, I believe my dreams will come to pass. Perhaps not as mightily exceeding as Joseph’s dream, but perhaps so. Either way, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I am thankful today for all the Lord has seen me through, for all that He has blessed me with, and for all the experiences He has allowed me in ministry and life.
Life is a journey…I may be young, and young in ministry, but I have experienced much more than would be expected. And I am here to be a help. Consider that an open invitation…