As I reflect this week on a decade of ministry with the people of Pray’s Mill Baptist—my heart is elated and filled with joy as I consider the privilege of serving the church where my wife and I grew up as children. When I’m asked about what it’s like to come home and serve in the context of the local church where we were nurtured and discipled as children—I explain by stating that it’s joyful, humbling, sanctifying, challenging, and fulfilling at the same time.
When I arrived ten years ago, the church had gone through a rough season. I remember receiving a phone call from an older pastor in our community when he heard that I was being considered for the office of pastor. He called me and discouraged me from coming. He likewise encouraged a completely different ministry approach from the beginning that looking back would have harmed our church. You know what they say about unsolicited advice, right? It’s never asked for and seldom followed. I chose to go a different direction. I wanted to build stability, trust, and set the stage for longevity.
Through the years, it has been a joy to serve a church with such a high view of Scripture. If the Bible teaches something—the people within our church desire to obey. That makes pastoral leadership joyful and effective at the same time. A high view of Scripture has enabled us to accomplish many goals such as church planting in the mountains of Ecuador, the establishment of a plurality of elders, the practice of biblical church discipline, and more. Having a proper view of God’s Word allows the church to accomplish big goals for the glory of God.
When a church calls a younger pastor, often they fail to forget that just as you would expect younger men to grow in grace and mature in the faith—so must a younger pastor be afforded that same process. Unfortunately, many churches do not view pastoral ministry through a proper lens, and they become angry when their pastor makes changes or adopts a new position based on a theological conviction. This often creates division and perpetuates the statistics whereby pastors rotate from pulpit to pulpit every 2-4 years—dragging along their wife and children from church to church. I’m grateful that has not been my story. I’m thankful for our church’s patience with me through the years as I’ve adopted new positions, grown in my knowledge of Scripture, made my fair share of mistakes, and sought to grow in my ability to serve well from the pulpit and in the work of shepherding souls—which is the calling of a pastor.
The Scriptures say much about love (1 John 4:7), and I can honestly say that my family and I have been loved well within the context of our local church. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, Paul encourages the church to have a proper love and respect for their pastors. He writes:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
A church that loves their pastors will enable their leaders to serve them with joy which is far better for the life of the pastor, his family, and the entire church as a whole. Not only has the church honored me well, but they have loved me and befriended me. My closest relationships are within the context of our local church. That is something that I will cherish the rest of my life.
Longevity has afforded my children stability during formative years. It has allowed me and my family to model longevity by way of church membership—in essence practicing what I preach regarding a high view of membership and resistance against the prevailing tide of evangelical consumerism. While ten years sounds like a long time to some people, when you consider the fact that Adrian Rogers served in Memphis for 32 years, John Calvin served in Geneva for 25 years, Charles Simeon served in Cambridge for 50 years, Martyn Lloyd-Jones served in London for about 30 years, and W.A. Criswell preached through the entire Bible verse-by-verse as pastor of First Baptist Dallas, Texas for nearly 50 years—I have a way to go. Most recently, just last year one of my heroes in the faith, John MacArthur surpassed 50 years as pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. I’m grateful for a church that desires longevity from pastoral leadership as opposed to a rotating door. It’s good for pastors and the entire church family.
One of the greatest joys of my life is to serve with a group of faithful elders and deacons who love God, pursue holiness, and seek to lead and care for the church faithfully. When I arrived ten years ago, I was the “CEO pastor” who had a staff surrounding me. Today, we have a staff structure, but we likewise have a plurality of elders who oversee the church spiritually, lead from God’s Word, shepherd souls, engage in the work of discipleship and missions, and labor alongside a plurality of deacons to serve in practical service roles. To see the unity among a plurality of elders and a plurality of deacons is a tremendous blessing on my life and the life of our church family.
I am grateful for God’s immense blessing through the gift of my wife, Kari. We met as children in the church I serve now as pastor. Who knew that the adults were shaping and discipling a future pastor and pastor’s wife who would eventually return home and serve the body? It’s a story of God’s providence. Yet, not only has God gifted our home, but he has gifted our church with a pastor’s wife who truly loves the people and seeks to engage with other women as a means of friendship and Titus 2 discipleship. I consider myself to be doubly blessed. Kari is my wife and the mother of my children, but also a co-laborer in ministry within the context of our church. She’s one of the hardest working people I know.
As I look forward, I can only imagine what the Lord has in store for the future of our church. Many of the things we were able to accomplish in these last ten years I had set as goals from the beginning. However, the founding of G3 Conference which has exploded into a ministry that serves to encourage and equip the local church in sound biblical truth was nowhere on my radar screen. I continue to dream big, but more than that, I trust in a big God who has a much greater vision for the church than I could ever imagine or dream. I want his will more than anything for our church.
It is my prayer that our church family at Pray’s Mill Baptist will remain “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).