Living on a Prayer
The road started in a second floor prayer room. Spring 2008 was my second to last semester at Southern Seminary in Louisville. I had never been a pastor, and my impending December graduation was taunting me with my lack of potential employment opportunities.
So I prayed.
Well, before I prayed, I desperately scanned 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (the pastoral epistles), looking for a biblical basis to ask God to give me a pulpit and pastorate. I scratched 8 or 9 things on an index card and prayed that list multiple times per day for months.
It felt bold at the time.
My only ministry experience was as a volunteer and youth ministry intern where I had taught middle schoolers, and preached in “big church” twice. Laura (my wife) had never even heard me preach. And I was asking God to give me a full-time preaching ministry, somewhere, somehow.
In April, I put my resume together, and I prayed that list.
In May, I finally told Laura that I felt God tugging toward South Florida where her family is from. We told my parents in California that we wouldn’t be coming back, and we told her parents to be on the lookout and spread the word. We prayed that list.
In June, I heard about a pastor looking for an associate, and we praised God and prayed even more.
In July, we visited South Florida and on Independence Day we had breakfast with Chad, the pastor looking for me (or so I told him), his wife, and our mutual friends who had originally connected us. It seemed like a perfect fit. He was looking for an associate to work to plant a daughter church on the campus.
In August, September, October, November, months that seemed like years moved like molasses. We prayed, anxious, a lot of the time.
In December, finally, I preached at Pembroke Road Baptist Church as a candidate for the position of associate pastor. We met a bunch of people, answered a bunch of questions, and came back in January for an official meeting with the church’s leadership.
They voted me in on January 25, 2009. Two weeks later, Chad, who had told me he would likely only be there another year or two, called me. He would be leaving two weeks after I got on the ground on March 1st.
It terrified me and thrilled me. He was recommending the church retain me as an associate and after four months the church and our family would mutually consider whether this should be a permanent situation.
In March, I started and to everyone it seemed clear. God was calling me to Pembroke, and I’ve now been here for almost four years, a white guy pastoring an established church in a multi-cultural urban community.
I learned a ton of things, and here are three of them:
1. God works through prayer.
Prayer based on his Word. God clearly answered my prayer to be a full-time lead preaching pastor in a church. An established church with a long pedigree of calling gifted and experienced shepherds to its leadership embraced me wholeheartedly as God’s man for the job. A 28-year old guy who had never been a “real” pastor, who was just three months out of seminary, and who, for some of our members, was the age of their grandchildren. God moved in the hearts of his people through prayer.
2. God sovereignly directs our steps as we step out in faith.
A car that is rolling steers easily, and usually God won’t adjust your direction until you start moving. In the Spring of 2008 I submitted my resume to a church in New England, and I knew that if I was willing to go to the frozen tundra away from everyone I knew, I would go anywhere. That’s when God truly started directing us to where he wanted us all along.
3. God times things perfectly.
Like I said, Summer-Fall 2008 was excruciatingly long in our experience. We had no idea if we were going to “get the job” in South Florida, but we were starting to check out of Louisville emotionally. It was just a lot of waiting and wondering what in the world was going to happen and when. But God timed it perfectly, as we look back, both for our individual family and for our church family.