My Path Here: Part 2

Screenshot 2020-02-19 at 5.38.38 AMHere is a link to Part 1, if you haven’t read that yet.

In 1990 I finished the 8th grade, started high school and got my learner’s permit. That’s my yearbook photo, just before I turned 15. I had the physical stature of an adult and with a suit and tie looked like a proper grown up, albeit a very young one. I was very solidly grounded in the truth of scripture; I wasn’t searching for God, purpose, meaning or anything else. The King James Bible was the Word of God and any other “version” was written by men in an attempt to change the Bible. Boys were not supposed to wear earrings, only prisoners and sailors wore tattoos, ladies wore long dresses and long hair. Seminary was for men who chose to pastor churches and no real man of God “chose” to become a pastor, you had to be called. It was wrong to want to pastor; you had to be called, not want to do it, and then surrender to God’s will. Unless you were called to be a missionary which I was hoping didn’t happen because that meant leaving the United States and only coming back every few years to show slides. I took two years of Spanish in high school just in case because in my childhood experience missionaries spoke Spanish. Yes, I’m serious about that. That was the world I knew existed and was preparing to enter.

I spent four years on the high school debate team. I was sheltered, not dim-witted. Traveling with the debate team, including spending a week in Kansas City at the National Debate Tournament, offered a window into the real world. I discussed yesterday going to college, getting married and then joining an SBC church. The next turn on the path came after receiving a four page letter from a private boarding school in rural southeastern Kentucky. I learned about the Cooperative Program and annual mission offerings in the short time, about 2 1/2 years, we spent at Pleasant Hope. I was introduced to mission mindedness by serving the local community at the Baptist center, going on three short-term youth mission trips and traveling to Lay Renewal and Experiencing God weekends. Entering the mission field as a state missionary in Kentucky didn’t seem as far fetched as it would have just a few years earlier. I graduated from the teacher education program at Shorter and was certified in social studies, broad field, grades 6 – 12. What I didn’t know when I started college was that history  and English teachers are a dime a dozen. The job search was not going well, to put it mildly, and here was the opportunity to combine teaching with full time ministry. It was out of state but only a 4 1/2 hour trip. At Oneida Baptist Institute I met Michael Spencer. Before I knew about Internet Monk, attending Spencer’s Sunday school class and morning devotionals twice a week introduced me to the ESV and concepts such as systematic theology. The next seven years was like going to seminary without the course requirements and busy work. There were no grades, just learning from one the best Bible teachers and missions mentors I have ever met.

We spent nine years in Kentucky. I went there to teach World and U.S. History but as time went by I was increasingly involved in aspects of vocational ministry, on and off campus. At OBI we were leading BCM, teaching Sunday school classes (for middle and high school students), and I was preaching in chapel on a regular basis and eventually taught one period of Bible during the school day. On two different occasions I served as the interim campus minister, once when Michael Spencer took a 9 week sabbatical during the summer and about half the school year in 2010 after he was diagnosed with cancer. Teresa and I joined Manchester Baptist Church about half an hour from Oneida where we found a Sunday school class, sang in the choir, and I drove a bus and helped out with Wednesday night church youth. I had the odd distinction of leading congregation singing (but not the choir) of a congregation that ran about 200 on Sunday morning. Ken Bolin had a group of 2 or 3 preachers in his church that he shared the pulpit with, sometimes when he was out of town and sometimes because on Sunday and Wednesday evenings because that’s what good pastors do. I was the VBS director a couple of times at Manchester. The last 3 or 4 years in years in Kentucky I preached at a small Presbyterian church. They couldn’t call me as pastor since I was an ordained Baptist minister, but I was pulpit supply for several years. If I made a hospital visit or met family members they introduced me as their pastor.

When we came back to Georgia in 2012 I no longer had any interest in the classroom. If you have any teacher friends, ask how the landscape has changed over the last 20 years. We joined a church and once again quickly became involved in youth ministry, choir and Sunday school programs. In two years time I became the Brotherhood director and my wife took the corresponding role as WMU director. I published a book in 2014 and handed out copies when I began distributing my resume. I’m now in my 6th year as pastor of a small SBC church out in the country. I serve on the city council in a community of about 300. A degree in history/political science, nine years teaching experience, combined with odd jobs along the way like assistant carpenter and building fences is not the conventional path one takes to the pastorate. I am something of an odd bird because of it. I serve as the moderator for our local Baptist association and attend the state convention most years. I also serve as president of a ministerial alliance where Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, 7th Day Adventists and Episcopalians come to the same table once a month. We believe we can do more for our community working together than we can working against each other.

So that’s my story of how I got here, in my career and theological beliefs. I still hold the KJV in high regard but the ESV is my choice for reading and studying. I preach out of the NKJV on Sunday mornings because I know my audience. I am still conservative, politically and theologically, just not extreme right wing (slightly to the right of Attila the Hun). I read a lot of John Piper but am not a 5 point Calvinist. My pastor in Kentucky certainly was but we got through it! At 44 that’s where I am now. Will I be in exactly the same place 10 or 20 years from now? If blogs still exist I will let you know.

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