Ok, well that’s not an official day. Actually, I take that back…it is…apparently it is the second Sunday of every October. But that’s not what I am referring to.
Today is the anniversary of the day that me and two good friends, Rick Keith & John Freeman, were recognized as pastors of New Life Church in Ann Arbor. (13 years ago…phew!)
Not a big deal right? Pastors are ordained all the time. But for us it was a big deal. I was always pretty confident about Rick & Free, but there was a time when I thought it would never happen in my life. I came to Christ in college and got to know Rick and Free right away. Rick has always been on the fast track. What a good guy. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love him. Free is different (can I get an Amen?)….. but in a funny, uplifting way. The sort of guy you look at and say, “we need more guys like that in our community.” A bringer of life.
Honestly, I felt like a bit of a black sheep. I was different, but not necessarily in the “uplifting” way. “He’s rough around the edges.” I accidentally swore at prayer meetings. I knew absolutely zero of the Christian lingo, and thought it was all a little bizarre. I argued with the leaders a lot. My strong opinion was shared with all who would tolerate it, all under the guise of “keeping it real”.
But God slowly got a hold of my heart. And as the years went by, I was privileged to be hired as a campus missionary working with NLC. What a great time of life. The three of us roaming around campus. In awe of the Gospel, passionate about life change and redemption, and utterly convinced that through reaching college students at U of M, God would change the world.
And somewhere along the way, God laid on my heart the idea of being a pastor. At first it seemed reasonable enough. I thought maybe I just had to take some classes. Go to seminary, bang out some coursework and be done. That I could handle, I had been doing that my whole life. But then someone showed me the qualifications laid out in scripture. For someone like me, the passages of I Timothy 3 & Titus 1 were (and still are) downright intimidating. At that point I thought the whole idea was ludicrous.
So many people blessed me along the way, but two men in my life, Mike Pape & Gerald Vazquez, had more hope for me than I had for myself. We need people like that, right? (a few more of the mighty men) But their hope wasn’t IN ME….it was in the fact that we serve a God who is bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine. I got involved in our pastoral development program at NLC, and became convinced of a few biblical truths.
1. The Holy Spirit is the one who calls & raises pastors up for their work.
2. The majority of the qualifications center around Christ-like character.
As I studied God’s Word, developed ministry skills, and had God refine my character, these guys (among others) played the role of Paul in my life. Reminding me day after day simply that God was doing a work in my life & he would continue it.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:3-6
But it felt SO SO SLOW. (ever feel that way?) It felt like my walk with Jesus was 2 steps forward….1 and a half steps back. (1 3/4 maybe?)
On my 29th birthday (April 24, 2000) I was downright discouraged. Rick and Free seemed to be flourishing, but questions and doubts were swarming around in my head….
Is this REALLY what God wants to do in my life? Will I ever make progress?
So I prayed. I told God (I’m not sure if this was appropriate or not) that I was giving Him one more year. That by my 30th birthday, I didn’t have to be a pastor, but at least He needed to give me clear confidence & confirmation that this was what He still wanted me to pursue.
If not, I was going back to Engineering before my degrees were totally obsolete.
Well, you know the rest of the story I guess. Unless it was the cruelest of April Fool’s Day jokes, 23 days before my 30th birthday we were ordained. What a honor to be ordained at the same time as those men. And in my life, yet another reminder to me of the patience and mercy of God. He could have just ignored my prayers….especially ones that involve “threats” of leaving ministry. But he was gracious. He takes the broken things of this world and redeems them. It points me back to one of my favorite verses in scripture, I Timothy chapter 1:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (v.15-16)
There are so many days I still feel the way I did back then…..Am I growing at all? Is He working in my life?
This day is one of those reminders that God is at work, even when I can’t see it, even when I get impatient, or impertinent. He is bigger than our brokenness.
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
PS Hey, if you are reading this & get a chance, let’s all say a prayer for my friends Rick and John.
Rick is serving as a pastor at NLC in Ann Arbor, leading a church that is reaching the lost in the city of Ann Arbor and campus of U of M!
John is in the midst of planting h2o church at the University of Pittsburgh! Their team is on the front lines of bringing the gospel to the next generation.
Pray that they would continue to be amazing examples to all of us of pastors, husbands, and fathers who honor Jesus Christ