* This is the beginning of a series in which I'll be "unpacking" my experience thus far as a church planting pastor and how we arrived where we are. It won't be a voluminous anthology or anything, but by necessity the posts will be a little long. "Popcorn" posts on unrelated stuff will be scattered along the way...
In 1972, I placed my faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized at the age of seven. From that day forward I have never known a time when I have not sensed God's leading and presence in my life.
When I was a teenager, God unmistakably called me to serve Him in full time ministry. I remember the night I fell on my knees at an altar in response to His calling and prayed fervently, "Lord, I'll do whatever You want me to do and I'll go wherever You want me to go."
And God has pretty much held me to that. In fact, He's had me "doing" and "going" quite a bit over the years.
In fact, I've been in ministry since 1984, serving in a paid staff position from then to now with no lapse between church positions.
[Do the math. I'm a "geezer" to some and a "whipper snapper" to others. But for just a little perspective, I'm two years younger than Johnny Depp, so I've definitely still got a lot of life in me. Barely getting started, in fact.]
I have served as a youth pastor, worship arts pastor, recreation coordinator, associate pastor and senior pastor. I've worked with children in a variety of ministry settings. I've been a summer missionary, written, produced and presented a full scale dramatic musical with orchestration, performed concerts, spoken to groups of all sizes, conducted weekly nursing home services, performed weddings, ministered in many funerals, made countless hospital visits, led hundreds of Bible studies, written worship songs, counseled students and parents of students and served in a variety of volunteer roles with the cities of my community.
I helped start a Christian club on campus and was in the first graduating class of the Caddo Parish Magnet High School for the performing arts and academics, receiving a diploma with distinction. I've earned a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry, and a Master of Arts in Religious Education, including a minor in Music and a Youth ministry specialization. I'm a certified graduate of the Covey Leadership Center's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." I was voted "funniest" in high school, and elected "wittiest" and "Junior Class Favorite"in college. I think I have a few perfect attendance certificates and other miscellaneous awards lying around somewhere. I like long walks on the beach and kissing in the rain. Yadda, yadda, I think you get the point.
And it's all fine and dandy. If you're a Christ follower, you could probably tell a similar story. If you're also a pastor, your list may certainly be longer than mine.
But when God called me to plant a church, I really entered a whole new world. It was one He had been preparing me for and one in which He wanted to prepare me.
Back in 2002, there was no mistaking that God wanted me to leave the comfort of a thriving, long term ministry (with a great salary package and housing allowance, I might add) and move to a new area for the purpose of planting a new church.
He didn't tell me what would happen next or how it would turn out, but He most certainly told me to go. To not go would have been disobedience.
And although I wrestled with it for an extended period of time, I eventually said, "Yes" again to His call, even as I remembered my teenage prayer. God's call is not static, after all, and the deal was still on.
So like a skydiver who grabbed a blanket to break his fall on his way out of the plane, and with only a slight backward glance, I jumped full force into the big blue sky.
(To be continued.)