I was 15 years old when I sensed God calling me into ministry. I have strived to do my best to follow Him ever since. When I was in college, I read one of the first news reports ever written about a guy in Chicago who had started a new kind of church, reaching out to “seekers.” People were coming to his church by the thousands. The guy’s name was Bill Hybels, and I remember thinking to myself, “That’s the kind of church I want to build and the kind of minister I want to be.”
Then, early in my first pastorate, I went to a conference at a church in Nashville where the main, and only, speaker was a pastor from California who had just written a book. I had never heard of Rick Warren, and his book, The Purpose Driven Church¸ had just hit stores. I was blown away by this conference and bought about 5 copies of the book for myself and my church leaders. I devoured that book and thought to myself, “That’s the kind of church I want to build and the kind of minister I want to be.”
And I set out to build a purpose driven, seeker sensitive, church.
But about 4 years ago, God drastically changed my direction and I have never been the same and it has been quite a journey.
About 4 years ago, I left a highly successful church to restart a church in Franklin, TN. People thought I was crazy. But I knew God wanted me to do something different.
The church I restarted had no outside support. I knew returning to Franklin would require me to be bi-vocational. God opened the right door and I have been pastoring and teaching ever since.
Now-a-days, here is what my ministry looks like:
During the weekday (and 1 weeknight) I teach 7 college classes, comprised of almost 200 students. Some of the students come from wealthy backgrounds, some come out of poverty. I have black students, Hispanic students, white students, country students, and inner-city students. I have students from about 20 different countries. I have Christians, Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.
A couple of Sunday nights a month, I attend a small group (about 10-15 people) where all the members but me, grew up as Christians in Baghdad. All have friends and family who have recently been killed and persecuted in Iraq. Half the time they are talking and singing and reading in English, the other half they are talking and singing and reading in Arabic. Yet somehow, I always know what they are saying. (There is nothing more humbling and inspiring than hearing a Middle-Eastern person read the gospels in Arabic. It gives me chills just thinking about it.)
A couple of Wednesday nights a month I lead a small group that meets in the fellowship hall of an African-American church in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Franklin. (Yes, there is poverty in Franklin.) Everyone in the small group attends our church, and I am the only white guy there on Wednesday nights. I just got home from one of these Wednesday small group meetings, and I would not trade the last hour of my life with any other minister or pastor I know.
(Until recently, my wife and I also attended a small group twice a month that met in one of the more exclusive neighborhoods in Williamson County. The socio/economic/race contrast between the two groups could not be more diverse, but both groups are part of our church’s small group ministry. People from both groups attend our church each week.)
Then, every Sunday morning, I minister to the greatest church I have ever been a part of, with the greatest praise band there is and the greatest people in the world. We rock the house, we have communion every week, we worship and pray around tables, we hear God’s Word; and we are small (averaging about 50 each week).
I still love Bill Hybles and Rick Warren. I have had the privilege of meeting both of them. But their journey is not the journey God has put me on, and I would not want it any other way.
Please understand, this blog is not about me. I am not bragging. I don’t want anyone to think I have arrived and I have all the answers. I have more questions now, and I know less now about ministry, than I did 20 years ago. But I love the journey God has me on, and I give Him all the praise.
What journey does God have you on?
Make sure you are walking His journey for your life, and not someone else journey for your life.