This week marks my twelfth-year anniversary of pastoral ministry at Pray’s Mill Baptist Church. Through the years, as I reflect upon my time here as pastor, I am profoundly grateful to our Lord for what I’ve learned and how God has been gracious to us as a church family.
I recall the day I was sitting at lunch with our young family at the table on a Sunday afternoon when I expressed my broken heart for Pray’s Mill Baptist Church to my wife. I had just finished preaching and I had learned of the current pastor’s resignation. I had a massive burden for the church where my wife and I both grew up as children.
On Monday morning, I received three different phone calls. Each one was from someone connected to Pray’s Mill Baptist. In each call, the person asked if I would be willing to submit my resume for consideration in the days to come as the church organized an effort to search for their next pastor. That would begin a 12-month process that would eventually result in me being voted in as the pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church.
I was 33 years old and my wife was 29. Kari was expecting our third child. This was no cake walk position. In the beginning, I was warned to not come home. Some of my closest friends tried to direct me elsewhere. The local Baptist association contacted me and gave me some stern warnings and tried to encourage me to take a rapid overhaul of the church. In short, the church had gone through a season of instability and needed strong leadership, but most importantly, the church needed the blessing of the Lord.
As I reflect over the last twelve years, I can see that the first four years were a stability building season. During that time, I established a commitment to expository preaching and unpacked clear doctrinal truths from the pages of the Bible. During this season I remember it as a season of subtractions. People leaving the church because they disagreed with the doctrine, leadership direction, and through death. I buried more than one person per month the first two years.
I can also recall being discouraged as a young pastor. John MacArthur once wrote, “Unruly congregations are not likely to be aware of, or care about, the sorrow they cause their pastor and other leaders (Heb 13:17).” 1John MacArthur, Hebrews, Moody, 1983, p. 446. Although the church was not unruly, there were unruly members within who were beginning to impact my life and as a result I experienced a lack of joy.
The following four years involved a season of spiritual growth. By this time, we had adopted a plurality of eldership position on leadership and things were beginning to get more organized from a doctrinal and ministry philosophy position. The church was not only enduring expository preaching, they were learning once again to develop the skill of expository listening. Yet, we were still not experiencing numerical growth. We prayed and asked God to bless, but this season involved as many departures as additions to the church.
After the eighth year, we began to reach big goals in terms of leadership, ministry and worship philosophy, and all of this led straight into the beginning of COVID-19. Just when we were anticipating a season of growth, things took a strange turn. In fact, it was really strange. After the initial shock waves of COVID-19, we began to stabilize as a church family. While many churches struggled to survive, we started to see a steady numerical growth. In fact, over the last two years we have added more members and baptized more new believers than at any other time period over the last twelve years. During the last two years, we have added more new members than any recorded two year time period of our church’s history.
As I reflect upon the blessings of God upon our local church, I am astounded. I am extremely grateful. Through the years, although an imperfect younger pastor, I sought to obey God in how I preached, what I preached, and through faithful shepherding of souls. But, even then, we did not experience immediate numerical blessing. Although we prayed for growth, the Lord chose not to increase our church family during those first eight to nine years. Now as we enjoy the blessings of numerical growth, I am humbled and grateful.
We have witnessed families far and wide join our church in recent months. We have seen families drive an hour to church each week and remain committed week-by-week. In recent months, one family relocated from New Hampshire in order to join PMBC. This is clearly the work of God, not me or our pastoral staff. The Lord has determined to grow our church and to bless us during this season. From both a numerical membership to a numerical financial blessing—our church has been tremendously blessed over the last two years.
Upon further reflection, as I consider the reality that I was merely 33 years old when I came home to serve my home church as pastor, I’ve learned some important lessons through the years. Here are twelve important lessons that I’ve gleaned over these last twelve years.
- Expect Pastors and People to Grow
- Lead with Conviction
- Lead with Love
- Lead with Patience
- Pastoring Is More than Preaching
- People will Disappoint
- Church Discipline Works
- Obedience Does Not Promise Success
- Reforming a Church Is Difficult Work
- Learn from Personal Leadership Mistakes
- Pleasing God Is the Goal
- God Grows His Church
To the pastor who is faithfully serving God and seeking to obey the Scriptures as a faithful pastor—just remember that God sees your faithful labor and knows the needs you have personally and corporately. Continue to be steadfast in the faith and the Lord will remain faithful.
To Pray’s Mill Baptist Church, I want to express my gratitude for the love you have shown me and my family. It is indeed an honor to serve as your pastor. I am excited about the days to come! I wake up each day with a joyful heart to serve you.
|1||John MacArthur, Hebrews, Moody, 1983, p. 446.|