I’ve been in fulltime ministry since cutting and pasting was actually cutting and pasting. And through the years, I’ve met people who have shaped the way I think. When I first began my first fulltime ministry position in 1995, I was a typical fresh-out-of-college type of punk; knew it all and couldn’t wait to school anybody watching on how ministry is really supposed to be done. Boy have I learned that I still have a whole lot to learn. Let me pause here and encourage you to ask God where pride is getting the best of you. Because He detests pride so much, He’ll be more than happy to show you exactly where its at. And quick.
My first ministry post lasted 2 years. In 1997 I moved on from Northern VA to Nyack, NY. I loved Nyack (still do) and the new ministry context. While I had learned so much in VA, I by no means had “arrived” anywhere. Still with lots of gusto, I plunged myself into my new position head-first. I had been there for 4 years or so when my senior pastor came to our apartment to tell me that he was about to go into a board meeting where he’d be resigning his position. I was stunned, saddened, and inwardly devastated. My mind and heart immediately asked God, “What about me? This is the man who led my hiring. Should I consider packing up, too?” I’m not sure how to explain it, but almost as immediately as I asked, I sensed an answer: “No.” So, over the next 14 months I served as the only fulltime pastor on staff. Can you imagine it? The youth guy at the helm? Crazy, right?
During that time, I stepped even more into a leadership role; almost an interim of sorts. I led board meetings, I preached a whole lot more, and I generally did more of the things a senior pastor would do. I was even approached with an inquiry if I would be interested in being considered for the role of senior pastor. Those who know me already know the answer; even to this day student ministry is where I feel God wants me and I can’t get over how clear that has been over the years.
One of the things I honesty got more involved in was regularly planned prayer meetings. And there was a guy there named Joe that always caught my attention. Remember, I’m still a young, spry, let’s-take-the-next-hill, why-are-we-standing-around, hurry-up-and-do-it kind of leader. But when it was Joe’s turn to pray…
“Heavennnly Faaatherrrrr…..” This slow, drawn out snail’s pace of his prayers would simultaneously irritate me and teach me. Every syllable just seemed soooooooo ssssllllooooooooooowwwwwww. While I was in such a hurry to get to the next thing on the to-do list, Joe was completely content to sit and simply talk to Jesus. And honestly, at first I just didn’t get it. I thought “How in the world can someone take so long doing something like this.” Kind of reminds me of a couple sisters named Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was hurried, worried, and busy with the work at hand. Mary wasn’t lazy, she just knew what should come first. Joe taught me so much without even trying. He taught me that I was (and perhaps most of us are) in a far greater hurry than God is. He taught me that I’m far more likely to run ahead of Jesus than lag behind. He taught me that I’m the kind of guy who’ll call back over my shoulder saying, “Hey Jesus, follow me!” while Jesus responds with, “Hey, that’s my line.”
So if you know me now in the place I’m at in ministry, you’ve likely noticed that I don’t tend to rush things….anything really. And that’s in large part thanks to a wonderful friend of God named Joe.