On March 1st, I got out of my comfort zone and took a leap of faith. I left my home, family, and my stability to pursue a position at Lea Joyner United Methodist Church. This decision for this move was not an easy one for several reasons my parents just moved to LaBelle on January 1st, we had great jobs as teachers, and we owned a beautiful home.
However, I took a leap of faith, and I got out of my comfort zone because I knew I was not being obedient to God’s call on my life. I knew that I was not called to be a teacher. My mother remembers me telling her when I was ten years old “I was going to be the pastor, and live in the country.” Even though I do not remember this conversation with her, God was preparing my heart even then.
Although this move is incredibly hard and in fact, my family and I are still in the midst of processing this transition. We all know this is God’s calling on my life, and within that call comes acceptance of the sacrifice.
I figured when I would start my first appointment I would be a “big boy” have my small church somewhere in the middle of nowhere. However, God sure has a sense of humor see six years ago or so I was told by then the associate pastor of Saint Francisville United Methodist Church “that I would really like Monroe.”
That Pastor is now the Senior Pastor of Lea Joyner UMC, and here I am in Monroe serving as one of his associates. The irony in this is beyond anything I could have imagined. I also would have never guessed that I would be serving as a pastor serving Youth and Children. However, on July 1st, I will transition from being a director to a pastor. Nothing really will change in how I approach ministry, other than I now can baptize students, serve communion, and maybe perform a wedding of a few of my former kids.
However, in reality, it changes everything that I do. It makes me want to strive to do better than I have done anywhere else, it keeps me accountable not only to my Senior Pastor but also to the District Superintendent, The Bishop, and the Board of Ordained Ministry, it gives me the freedom to grow as pastor and learn in ways I have not been able to until this point. Most importantly it allows me the opportunity to grow in my personal faith.
I am excited that God has given me this opportunity to continue along the path of ministry which I admit I ventured off for a while. I am excited to be at a place where I have the opportunity to learn, and despite the hard things that won’t go away, I can walk by faith and not by sight.
And in 15 more days, I will be reunited with my wife and son. For only God knows what will take place in the months to come, but here I am.
Now that I have been to seminary, and Bible college I often have to prepare myself to be open minded to worship styles different from what I grew up with. As one buddy told me, I have been “methodized.”As a millennial twenty something it often surprises people, when I tell them that I prefer traditional worship over many contemporary services. By traditional I mean a service where we have a pulpit, lectern, hymns, and a few creeds.
I do feel the holy spirit as I recite those ancient creeds I memorized unintentionally through the years.
As I sat through a service the other day, that many I am sure would consider moving and powerful, I sat there wondering isn’t there more? For some, this may have been where God meet them, and for them, I am so glad that there is a place like that to meet them where they are.
Let’s face it one church will not be able to reach all the people in a given community, it takes a multi-church effort to do this. However, for me like many millennials we are asking hard questions, we desire more from our worship experiences, we want a deep connection with God that is spiritual, physical, and mental.
We do not all want a rock concert, but what we do want is authenticity. Some of the most powerful worship experiences I have had were at church camps and Wesley Foundations. Places where no rules existed, places where anything went. However, something was the same in these places it was their “authenticity.”
We live in interesting times with the church often feeling like it needs to compete, but in reality, when we focus on our mission, and we focus on whom we are worshiping, competition no longer becomes a priority. We realize to reach the lost, to reach the younger crowd we just need to be authentic no matter how we choose to worship.
I have served churches in Louisiana, Illinois, and Florida over these past several years and I have experienced what traits I believe separate the effective pastors from the stagnant ones.
- Effective Pastors and Leaders have a clear vision where God is calling them to go. This trait is primary in separating the effective from the noneffective. This is usually marked by having a clear set of goals, and objectives to complete within the year. So when they launch ministries, they always reflect the overall mission of the church.
- They are humble a pastor once told me “do not trust any pastor who is not willing to do this dishes.” Some pastors lose track of where they came from when they began ministry, often resulting in a CEO model of leadership. Effective pastors stay humble and remember they are called to be both the servant and the prophet.
- They are life-long learners face it pastors who think they know everything have lost the focus of their calling. Effective pastors do not stop learning when they receive their seminary and Bible college degree but continue to strive to be better at the job God has called them to do. You will witness them reading books, attending seminars, and taking time for continuing education.
- They do not take themselves to seriously, and they are okay with being themselves around all people. Effective pastors cannot be one person on Sunday morning, and someone entirely different during the rest of the week. Effective Pastors have to be real with people!
- They take time for themselves and their family. To be effective, you cannot be burnt out. Even if this means that all you can do is have a staycation two weeks out of the year, remember even God rested.