August 17 marked the third year God has allowed me to be the pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Cortez, Colorado. It is still so hard for me to believe that a congregation of people were led of God to call on a twenty-four-year-old young man to come have the privilege of being their pastor. Yet, as we cross this milestone, I must express how thankful I am that they did. It is obvious now, looking back, that God’s hand was in it. It has been the greatest privilege of my life to be the pastor of the wonderful people of our church. My family has been blessed to live in this community and to serve God alongside this church family.
In light of this anniversary, God put it on my heart to share with you some of the truths He has taught me in three years of pastoring.
The Clarity of God’s Will
The first lesson I have learned in these first three years is one that God has taught me more than once and in more than one way, all regarding the clarity of His will.
Before we came to Cortez, Emily and I were happily serving in the ministry as a Youth Director at a great church in Smyrna, Tennessee. But, while we were serving there, God began to move in my heart regarding the call to be a pastor. For a while, I fought God’s call to pastor for several faithless reasons: “I was too young to pastor,” “I did not have enough experience,” “We were happy where we were,” etc. During that time, God taught me a lesson about surrendering when He calls and trusting Him to enable and to direct. After we surrendered, it was amazing to see how God quickly moved us. In a matter of three months, God had opened a door and knitted our hearts to a ministry in need of a pastor that we had no prior knowledge of. I learned then that there is always a purpose, a people, and place God has prepared when He calls a man.
More recently, God taught us another lesson regarding the clarity of His will. After being extended an opportunity to pastor another church, my mind began to play tricks on me. I wondered, “Why would God give us an opportunity that would distract us from the place where He has called us?” With all my heart, I did not want to leave the church God has brought us to; but I couldn’t rectify why He had allowed this other opportunity to be presented to us unsolicited and undesired.
During this time, I called several people, including Dr. R. B. Oullette. It was his counsel that helped me the most. He gave me two words of counsel regarding the clarity of God’s will that I will never forget.
1. You do not have to discover God’s will; it is God’s job to make it known to you.
This was so reassuring to me. Here I was fretting over what God wanted me to do, while God simply wanted me to wait on Him to receive His direction. It was not my place to make this decision; my place was to simply wait on His direction and follow His leading.
2. Sometimes God presents to a man an opportunity, not because He wants him to take it, but because He wants him to continue to be willing to do whatever He calls him to do.
It is easy for people who serve in ministry in the same place for years to become complacent and comfortable. For me personally, I know that God used this trial to reignite within my heart a passion for the ministry God has called us to here in Cortez.
The Capability of God’s Word
The second lesson I have learned is regarding the capability of God’s Word. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Before I became a pastor, I knew this truth in my head; but now that God has allowed me to pastor for a little while, I have grown to understand this truth in my heart.
God can do more with a well-prepared, Spirit-filled delivery of His Word than anything that could be accomplished through any of the programs, personalities, or productions that we can put together. God does not promise to bless our story-telling, social media, visual illustrations, or any other form of communication we can use. There is only one thing God promises us will never be communicated in vain — that is the proclamation of His Word.
“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11-12)
I have learned early on in pastoring that time spent in preparing and presenting God’s Word — whether it be in preaching, teaching, or counseling — is never spent in vain. In fact, it is one of the most important and valuable things that can be done with a pastor’s time.
The Contingency of God’s Work
A third lesson God has taught me over these first three years has to do with the contingency of His work. I have learned that much of what God wants to do and what we would like to see Him do in His Church and among His people is totally contingent upon our willingness to depend solely upon Him to enable us to see it accomplished. This dependence is best expressed through prayer.
For too long, I tried so hard to get every detail organized, every schedule drafted, every movement scripted, every problem solved, and even every message prepared without spending more than a few moments in prayer about each. There were days when the responsibilities seemed so many that I felt compelled to rush into the day to see that they were all taken care of, without even spending a moment in prayer. The result was equal to the ability I had to see spiritual fruit produced — and it wasn’t much of anything.
But, then God allowed me to cross paths with Dr. Wayne Van Gelderen. During my time with him, he began to teach me about the great importance of prayer in the life of the believer, and especially in the life of the pastor. It was he who presented me with a challenge to spend one hour every day in prayer with God. It seemed so difficult to do at the time with how busy life had become. Yet, upon accepting this challenge, I began to spend this daily time with God. Now, I can tell you without hesitancy, there is nothing that has more greatly impacted my life and the ministry God has called me to.
In short, God’s work is absolutely and unequivocally contingent on prayer. God’s Word is full of promises that affirm this to be so!
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:7, 16)
If we truly believe this to be so, it would change the way we pray and the time that we dedicate to spend in prayer. It certainly did for me when I truly began to believe it.
In three years, God sure has taught me many things. Truly, I know there are so many more things God will teach me in the years to come. I certainly have not arrived and am very far from it. Yet, along this journey God is taking me on, I can truly say it is so enjoyable to learn the lessons God is teaching me. I sincerely hope they are an equal blessing and help to you as they have been to me.