The Third Time Around

“And if I say, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing, and I cannot contain” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Recently I accepted the invitation from a small congregation to serve as their pastor. When I say small, I mean tiny – about a dozen people. The church is situated about four miles outside of a little old village that serves as home to less than 1,000 folks. The town has one of everything – one grocery store, one bank, one clinic, one cafe, and one traffic light. Like many other Texas towns, the railroad was the impetus for its formation and derived its name from the director of said rail-line. But the church isn’t even in town; it sits literally in a cow pasture.

The way I ended up at this spiritual oasis in the wilderness is odd, in and of itself. I had not been active in congregational leadership for over a decade, and most of that time I spent focusing on caring for Kimberly as she fought cancer. For the last couple of years since her death, I had been exploring the idea of re-entering ministry.  I attended a large city church (5,000 members) where my son served on staff, and they were gracious enough to offer me opportunities to teach. I led Wednesday evening Bible studies that normally had twenty or thirty people in attendance. There were other classes simultaneously taking place, led by other teachers in the church, and members selected which classes they wanted to attend for a four month rotation each. This was informal and fun, at least for me, but I still missed preaching. Shortly after that, I was invited to be part of a rotating team who preached on Sundays at an assisted living facility. Once a month I led a service for the residents, and they were absolutely loving and delightful. Again, my desire grew, and I thought about seeking other preaching opportunities on the Sundays I was free.

I became aware of this pastorless congregation through our local Baptist association’s website. I sent an email with my resume and offered to fill the pulpit when they needed it. The response was, “We have an interim pastor, but if you would like to be considered for the permanent position, please let us know.” I wondered whether I wanted to give up my freedom. After all, I could take an entire weekend off, anytime I wanted, simply by saying I was unavailable. I contemplated the ramifications for some time and decided to at least explore the idea. If I changed my mind, I could simply decline and move on. After that, I had some conversations with the pastor search committee and preached a couple of times. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Preaching on a Sunday morning filled some desire in me that more than made up for the sacrifice of spontaneous trips or sleeping in. In late December, I preached at the assisted living facility again, and later that week I received a phone call from the chairman of the pastor search committee. “I called to let you know that this past Sunday we voted to call you as our pastor.” I didn’t know they were going to do that, at least not yet. I laughed and said, “Okay!”

I am now six weeks into my new assignment, and I’m making efforts to get acquainted with my flock. According to them, the church was at one time significantly larger with  active youth and children’s ministries. Last spring, the church suffered an episode of vandalism, destroying and defacing much of the building. They have spent months working to repair the damage. Part of the damage is that it was accompanied by strife within the congregation and with the previous pastor. In that process and the days that followed, they lost a sizable number of members. The folks who remain seem tired – no,  exhausted. There is much healing and rebuilding yet to be done, so my initial sermon series is based in Nehemiah, “Rebuilding the Walls.” I hope to comfort and encourage them.

The first quarter of my life, my identity was wrapped around being “the preacher’s kid.” The next quarter of my life, my identity was that of  “the preacher.” The last 15 years have been an odd mix of not really being either. I had no connection to the pulpit or parsonage at all. Honestly, I felt somewhat lost in church. Now, I am a pastor again, and the congregation would love for me to move from my little duplex into the house that sits next door to the church. I would once again live in the parsonage. I can’t help but think God wants to do something really special at Willow Grove Baptist Church, and he might use me as part of that. After all, I increased their attendance 10% by simply showing up!

 

Published in: on February 6, 2020 at 1:56 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wes,
    I loved reading your blog. So glad you are ministering in this way. I can identify with much of what you wrote and it encourages me in many ways.
    Love you brother.
    Mark

  2. Congratulations on your decision and story about how you are beginning a new chapter in your life!
    We wish you the very best and many blessings to come your way
    Paula & Steve Meyer


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