Taking it all in…

If there is anyone left who still periodically checks this blog to see if the heartbeat has finally come to grinding halt, I assure you that I am alive and well.  I have purposefully not engaged the blogging medium for the last 12 weeks so that I could fully devote myself to a new venture.

First, I want to say that I am a more dedicated follower of Jesus Christ today than ever before in my life.  There were many times in my past ministry experiences when I would “say” what I believed but didn’t have the experience to back it up.  I do now.

God is so great, so good, so holy, so loving, so angry, so kind, so transcendent, and so immanent.  When I moved to Denver, Colorado, six years ago to pursue another assistant pastorate, I really believed that I would stay there for the rest of my life.  I had resigned myself to the fact that I would always be a second-man, an assistant.  And that was fine with me.

But if there is one thing I have learned in the 5 months since leaving Denver, it is this: God will do as He pleases.  I do not only believe in the sovereignty of God because I have studied it; I have seen it more clearly and personally than ever before in my life.  To this day, I am convinced that we become too settled in our routines, in our residency, in our competency, and often miss what God is doing.  He has never stopped administrating the universe; but we often stop watching and looking for His handiwork.

I also want to say that I have a renewed appreciation for the senior pastors of the world.  In some ways, my job has not changed.  I still study.  I still lead.  I still serve.  However, the gravitas of being the lead servant in the church is something to which I am still not quite accustomed.  It first “hit” me on the walk from our home in the church parsonage across the parking lot to the church building on my first day of work here at Heather Hills on July 28th.  All of the sudden, I emotionally and spiritually “felt” the weight–the responsibility–of the people whom I now would be shepherding.  It was a good feeling and a fearful feeling.

Without going into all the details, let’s just say that my first 12 weeks as a senior pastor have been exhilarating and exhausting!  I have a small staff of 6 people, mostly part-time, who serve with me.  The first thing I did was establish regular staff meetings each week to encourage and communicate with each other.  Then, for the first 3 weeks of ministry here, I saturated myself with individual, hour-long meetings with 35 ministry leaders in our church.  That really helped me, I think, to get past the “honeymoon” stage of becoming a new pastor and into the real issues facing this church.  It also allowed me to initiate relationships with many of these fine people.

Everything went pretty smoothly the first couple months.  I have REALLY enjoyed the study of Scripture and the opportunity to preach several times a week.  I have begun a series in Romans (expositional, of course!) on Sunday mornings, a series on the purposes of the church on Sunday evenings, and a series in the book of Proverbs on Wednesday evenings.  Even this area of study and preaching/teaching has been so affirming of God’s leading.  When He began to really light this fire for a preaching ministry in my spirit about 2 years ago, I didn’t understand what was happening or how I could fulfill this yearning as an assistant pastor.  Well, God knew exactly what was happening and had paved the way for a smooth exit from Red Rocks and about 5 months of faith-stimulating searching for God’s place for me: this place, Heather Hills Baptist Church.

I have also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to fulfill the overseer role of the pastor.  From leading the Lord’s Table to baptisms to funerals to leadership meetings–in all of these areas I can point to specific past opportunities and lessons that have prepared me well.  I don’t recommend that young men use the assistant pastor vocation as a stepping-stone to higher positions in the church; however, my 12 years of experience as an assistant was divinely preparing me for this role I have today.

One of the most exciting things I am currently involved in is leading our leadership team through a strategic planning process for our church which will give us vision and direction for the next several years.  We have spent hours in prayer and discussion, held town hall meetings with our congregation, and are formulating a set of core values, a new mission statement, and vision statements for this church.  It is exciting to see the men cast vision and dream for the glory of God.

We have also been actively reaching out to our community which is very racially diverse, unlike our church.  God has been very good in honoring these attempts.  We are struggling with the real challenges of how to overcome language and cultural barriers to effectively minister to these people the Lord is bringing our way.  It is especially wonderful to see the passion in our leadership for this task.

Of course, the Lord allows trials as well.  Even in this short ministry span at Heather Hills, it has been challenging to try to help people in crisis when I don’t even have a relationship with them of any depth.  But God has a way (GRACE!) of helping in these times.  It has truly been a blessing to minister to several people who are dying and have died since my arrival here.  Sometimes, I just want to cry with the spouses and children as we witness the work of death.  People look to pastors for strength and direction in these times; I think God has been able to use me to give that.  We also, like everywhere else, have struggling marriages and that has been and is a test of our determination as a church to be pure and deal with sin biblically.  But it is not an area in which I have had much experience, as an assistant pastor, and so the Lord is challenging me in this area.  I pray I remain faithful to the Word and determined not to ignore sin.

Our family has adjusted well to the new ministry.  Christina is a freshman in High School now and enjoys playing sports on the varsity level.  Deborah was offered a part-time teaching opportunity in a local Christian school here that pays for all of our children to attend the school.  She is enjoying using her gift as a teacher again and also enjoying the fact that it is not full-time!  Jonathan is in 7th grade and growing stronger and taller every day it seems.  He is becoming exactly the gentleman I have been praying for and I hope that the Lord continues to mold him through his teen years.  Ashley is in 6th grade and now has glasses!  She is growing up so quickly and is a hard worker.  I just had the privilege of baptizing Kayla last Sunday.  She is in 2nd grade and full of life and spunk as always.  She has glasses now too!  My baby Jason, who is 5 years old, is going through Kindergarten although he would rather stay with his daddy!  He is so big and strong and still very cuddly which is nice.  It’s hard to watch the final child move through the various developmental stages knowing that he’s the last one to do that.  Jason is asking lots of questions about Jesus and being saved so we’re hopeful that he will come to an understanding of his need for a Savior in the near future.

Well, I’ll stop for now.  I wanted to pop in and give a quick update.  I do truly appreciate your continued prayers.  I am determined to follow the Scriptures and have an impact on our city for the cause of Christ.  The need on this east side of Indianapolis is so great.  Pray for us!

Maybe I’ll write again in 3 months!  Maybe sooner…


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by PhilipT on October 22, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Glad to hear things are going so well out there. I’ve been praying for you.


  2. Still checking 🙂 And it’s good to hear from you again.


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