Anniversary   Leave a comment

15 years.  Incredible.  15 years ago today I began an adventure in full-time ministry.  The things I have learned since March 1, 1999 could fill volumes in a library and 800GB of memory.  Perhaps it is best if I just point out the bigger lessons…

People are Good and Mean Well

Like many pastors I have had my share of run-ins with folks who were agenda-driven and wanted their way or simply had a personality conflict with me (and I with them).  This is not unusual.  But in spite of some who will showcase these as the normal events in the life of a pastor, they are certainly not.  I have had the honor of serving God alongside some of the best people on the planet.  God has given me the tremendous gift of doing Kingdom work with missionaries, denominational workers, fellow ministers of several denominational affiliations, some of the best Deacons you could ever want to meet, dynamite Sunday School teachers and leaders, committed youth workers, incredible folks who passionately work with children, and countless folks who just love the Lord and want to serve with terrific attitudes!  Today, I want to pause and give thanks to God for the army of delightful people placed in my pathway as this journey of ministry reaches a moment to reflect.  Thank you, Lord, for good and godly people!

Ministry Can Overwhelm a Faithful Servant

Maybe the best way to describe this is to say that when I started full-time vocational service, I had hair!  Ah, the things we say goodbye to in time.  Like many of my peers, I have fallen into the trap of busyness far more times than I care to admit.  There is a drive within me that easily becomes insatiable.  Some call it a servant’s heart.  Some call it a passion for ministry.  Others call it being gullible enough to think that I’m really that valuable.  I am not.  I just want to help others.  This is a common theme in clergy as well as many others, but several of us easily admit that we tend to take it too far, and the ones who are sacrificed on this ministry altar the most are our families.  We over-commit freely, and it is our own fault.

The Rewards are Heavenly

If I had a dollar for every time the joy of Christ filled my heart as a result of God’s working through my ministry, I would not be able to count it all.  There is so much joy that literally floods over me when I have the honor of baptizing one who has decided to follow Jesus.  I feel an incredible sense of awe every time I hold and break the bread and share the cup of Holy Communion with family, friends, and strangers.  As one who primarily teaches, I cannot express the gratitude to God I have for allowing me the privilege of standing before others with Bible in hand and an openness to questions, and the people respond with nodding heads and “aha” moments.  There is great fulfillment that comes when a teenager listens to something you have shared and responds not only with “I get that”, but also with a changed life visible for the world to see.  And who does not melt when a child says thank you for a little thing you have done, or writes you a note or draws you a picture?  These are the greatest gifts.  In 15 years of ministry, God has been incredibly affirming and encouraging through these and many other channels.

The Future is Promising

As I write this I am 51 years old.  I have two years remaining of seminary education.  I want to spend the rest of my life preaching and teaching, maybe in that order, but probably not.  If by God’s grace I live to the age my father lived, that gives me 34 more years of opportunity ahead of me.  Of course I will retire, and of course I will enjoy retirement with my beautiful bride, and children, and grandchildren, and (if I live long enough to see them) great-grandchildren.  But I cannot imagine a future time in my life when I do not invest in somebody or some cause for Christ.  I want to mentor more, serve more, teach more, and share more as time progresses.  All of this plus the fact that I still have faith in God’s people – in God’s church!  Yes, there have always been and will always be contentious points between churches, denominations, and so forth, but there is still the encompassing presence of the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  Even though we ignore it at times, God never leaves us!  God keeps God’s promises, always.  We have evidence of that in the Scriptures, and if we are intelligent enough to look around us as well as within us, we have our own personal evidence as well.

So, in 15 years God has already far surpassed my wildest dreams of what would happen in Kingdom service.  I look forward with joyous anticipation to what the next 15 will bring.  Thank you, God, for allowing me this fascinating joy that comes with being in your service.  May you always find me a faithful follower…as well as everyone who reads these words.  Amen!

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