by Brotherpaul | Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Thirty years in the ministry – and at the same church. Many thoughts flood my mind as I ponder it – gosh; goodnight; mercy; insanity; blessing; grace; stubbornness; tenacity; love; crazy; where did time go; unbelievable; you’ve got to be kidding. And I’m quite sure that the good people of Calvary Baptist Church could come up with a list of their own words to describe this thirty year journey. I might not want to see it though.
Of course – I never thought when I accepted the call to come to Calvary in December of 1985 that it would begin a three decade long ministry journey. I still remember vividly the small committee who sat with me that day asking questions about my credentials and goals as their potential Minister of Music & Youth. They had never had a full time music/youth minister and I’d never been a full time music/youth minister. I was a young, single man, fresh out of graduate school and though I had some experience – I was very “green”. But God led us, the church extended their call, and thus our journey began.
Those first years were rough for the church and for me. I got to work alongside a number of interims and pastors for about a decade. In the process, I learned much via the school of “hard knocks” and so did the people of Calvary. Those were what I call the “Maalox” years. Stressful decisions – confrontational business meetings – votes on divisive issues – hurt feelings. Unfortunately these are things many of us consider “normal” for church life. And it wasn’t any one person or any one group’s fault. As usual – the devil had managed to convince us that we were supposed to fight one another. And we managed to do that very well – off and on – for a number of years.
I made many blunders during those early years. That’s why I’ve always needed so much grace. People with the greatest flaws need the most grace by the way. I am grateful to the older men of our church in those days who forgave me for being a “twenty something year old” who thought he knew more that he did. I know I was half-cocked and disrespectful at times. I’ve asked God to forgive me. I am thankful for the parents who trusted me with their children. At that time, I had many theories about child rearing but no kids of my own. Go figure. Believe me parents – I loved those kids – and always wanted the best for them.
I am grateful to the Godly ladies of our church who – when I’d do something really stupid – never gave up on me, but loved me like a son or grandson. I am also very grateful for the pastors and interims who allowed me to stay during those tough years and who encouraged me to use my gifts to serve the people of Calvary. And for the staff members who have worked with me through the years I am particularly grateful; grateful that those who have known me best have been gracious not to use my failures against me.
I am appreciative for the 30 years of salary and benefits that the church has afforded me to support my family. I know it has not always been an easy financial burden. For all the appreciations and recognitions and blessings – far too numerous to mention – thank you.
Someone may ask – “Paul have your goals and dreams all be realized,” to which I’d say – “heavens no”. But you know what – we’re not done yet. Someone said to me recently – “we’re looking for 30 more years.” With a chuckle I said – “I don’t think that’s feasible.” At the same time – there is still work to be done and less time to do it. My greatest desire is to continue to do God’s work here and to finish well.
In closing – let me say to the people of Calvary – I love you. I feel fortunate to have been given the privilege of serving you for three decades. People may have their ideas about how a man could stay in one church for that long; compromise – watered down preaching; abuse of authority; weak congregation. But I’ll give the answer in a single word: GRACE. Thank you Calvary for your incredible grace.
…allows me to lead you as an under-shepherd
…trusts me with the spiritual care of your family
…lets me take part in your weddings
…receives my ministry during your loss and suffering
…supports my decisions for the church’s direction
…forgives my many mistakes – sins and blunders
…embraces my humanness
…cares for my families hurts
…comes from the cross of our Lord Jesus
With A Shepherd’s Heart,