It’s hard to believe, but this Friday will mark my 7th anniversary with the church. To mark the occasion, I’d like to offer up some thoughts in no particular order.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it would last so long and be so good. My experiences with churches in the past were checkered: good and bad. Before I came to Rocky Mount, I was seriously kicking myself for not going to law school instead of seminary.
In many ways, coming to Rocky Mount was the first time that I had come close to truly surrendering myself to ministry and God’s wishes. In the past, my decisions were based more upon what I wanted or what I needed. Not so when I entered Search and Call in 2010. I remember telling Rev. Parker that I would like to know what churches were open, but I didn’t have a burning desire to leave where I was (it just wasn’t the best fit in the world) … whatever God wanted was what I would do.
I followed that mantra as I went through the process. I turned down a church that is one block from the beach, another church that is much larger, and other churches that seemed willing to bend over backwards to have me come be their pastor. I traveled all over Virginia meeting churches.
However, for some reason, I kept feeling that Rocky Mount was where God wanted me. I remember praying, “Are you sure about this? Rocky Mount? Not the beach?” As it turns out, I think God knew what was best for me.
It’s hard to believe that it has been seven years! Where has time gone? I was a young man when I came here. Now, I’m a middle-aged “young man.” My hairline continues to recede and other symptoms of aging are presenting themselves.
Where has the time gone? It has gone into many meaningful directions for me. I have opportunities that I would never have had at most other churches. I got to write a book with Dr. Hagy, write an Advent devotional, and start a third book. I have met the most amazing people and lost some dearly beloved church members and friends to death. At times, it has been an emotional roller-coaster ride with the ups and downs of church life. With God’s help, I have had my share of successes here, such as stumbling across Seph Custer and getting him plugged into RMCC. I have also been on service trips that have been deeply fulfilling to me and so much more.
However, my time has also been filled with unfulfilled dreams and plans. In addition to that, I have made my share of mistakes … most of them rather harmless and accidental. God knows (literally) that I have spent enough time beating myself up for those slips. It has left me occasionally wondering what in the world I was doing and why was I doing it.
So, seven years later, where does all that leave me? A changed guy. I have gone from youthful aspirations of being a great pastor to coming to a better understanding of who I am. I now realize and accept that I might not be the best pastor in the world, not even in Rocky Mount … and I’m okay with that. I am still striving to do my best in ministry. I just cut myself some more slack than I used to. I now know that it’s not all about me. I have to do my part to the best of my ability and pray that God will help me along the way.
Also, I am left with a deeper appreciation for the people in my church. I have watched for seven years as folks have lovingly and faithfully served in so many capacities at RMCC. They aren’t being paid one cent, but they continue to come and serve meals, teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, help pack snacks for the school, and so on. They believe in me and support me even when I probably don’t deserve it. They support my family in more ways than I can count. That’s one of the benefits of being a pastor in a church the size of RMCC: you really get to know people and develop meaningful relationships.
Seven years later, I am deeply grateful that God brought us here. Seven years later, I am praying the same prayer that I said on my first day at the church, “Dear God, please make me into a good pastor for these people.”