It’s hard to believe, but today I am celebrating my eighth anniversary as the pastor of Rocky Mount Christian Church. That might not seem like a big deal, but it is to me. First, the longest I ever had the same employment before this was four years. Second, I figured that I would make it about four or five years at RMCC when I first started. I just didn’t think I would be so fortunate to end up at a church full of loving, kind, and faithful people. So, I am very thankful to have been here this long!
One thing that continues to amaze me is that I never thought I would enjoy these eight years so much. I have had experiences that I never dreamt of … good and bad (99% good). I have made relationships that are so meaningful in these years. I have watched the church grow, as a body and as individuals. I did not expect it, but I have reveled in being the small-town pastor. I wouldn’t trade up, down, or over for anything.
I have been asked what keeps me here. Well, there are a lot of things that drive me to stay where I am. God’s direction and calling are still the main driving factors. I continue to feel that this is where God wants me to be. Close in second is the quality of the people I serve. RMCC has a unique variety of people, personalities, and gifts. I am thankful for all of them. They make my life, my family’s life, and the church’s life so much richer. The church has changed in my eight years. A lot of the people who made up RMCC have went on to their eternal reward that 2 Peter 1 talks about. However, new people have come to the church, and, amazingly, they are just as wonderful as the saints who have gone before them.
As I look back over the years, there are many things that I’m thankful for. First, you folks have allowed me to grow as your pastor. I was barely thirty-three years old when I first arrived. Although I had some experience in the job, I had (and still have) plenty of room to grow. The church has allowed me that room and time to grow. You have forgiven misdirection, maladaptation, and a miscellany of other errors. That leads me to another thing for which I am thankful. You have celebrated my successes, new endeavors, and earnest attempts to bring God to our lives. I am thankful that you tolerate my, at times, terrible grammar and country-boy slang. I am thankful that no one has hung me up by my ankles for not wearing a suit every Sunday. I am thankful for all the volunteers who make life at church possible and great. I am also thankful for the kind words that have been offered to me, meals brought to our house during hardship, and help moving things, and a host of other generosities that we have been shown.
Part of looking back is looking forward. Always hoping to grow, I look with hope to the future. Whether it is just tomorrow at worship or much further down the road, I anticipate great things for my ministry and our church.
One day, I took a closer look at all those pictures that are hanging in the back hallway at the church. I realized something startling: other than Dr. Lindsoe, I have been at the church longer than anyone else. When I last visited Joe, I told him I was gunning for his record years of service at RMCC. He just smiled and said, “I hope so!” I do, too. However long I have to be with you is up to God. I do know that I will cherish each day of it and give you the very best that I have.