In God's providence I write this on August 31, 2016 which marks to the day the end of 30 years of ministry here at Community Presbyterian Church. I knew it was going to be a great job when my first day at work (Sept 1, 1986) was a holiday ... and each day since has confirmed it truly is a great job!
I came to CPC to serve as youth director. Not that the church could afford another salary at that point, but thanks to the generous donation of a former church member who was committed to seeing us build a strong youth ministry there was just enough to offer me a job. So we came ... Anita, our baby Dane (born earlier that same year), and me. I was a student at Birmingham Theological Seminary so I was very busy during that time. But God was gracious and I graduated in '89 and soon ordained as an Associate Pastor. I still did youth ministry for a spell but we eventually hired someone else for that job. And when Craig Childs, CPC's first pastor, left in 1995 the church called me as her second pastor.
In addition to Craig I've had the incredible privilege and joy to work on a church staff alongside some of the greatest people I've ever known - Scott Puckett, Carol Downey, Ron Landry, Milton Seabolt, Chuck Eady, Tom May, Roger Strick, Tom Jackson, Jenny Bartz, Belinda Forman, Mitch McGinnis, Brandy Blackerby, Steve Morgan, Paige Mitchell, and Stokes Skellie. Our office has been managed and run by such amazing folks as Rebecca Gosnell, Martha Woodliff, Debbie Landry, BJ Youngblood, Jawan McGinnis, Hope Vergara, and Rita Taylor. And consider the blessing it is to currently be working with Matt Bryson, Angela Cisco, Debbie Landry, Virginia Tillery, Elizabeth McGinnis, and Quinn Hill. I know I've surely left out some key people but that's essentially a "who's who" list of people in ministry and I've had the privilege to work with each of them! And that's just some of the staff ... consider the amazing elders and deacons who have served here over the years! God has been so, so, so, so faithful in surrounding me with people who have mentored, encouraged, taught, challenged, pushed, comforted, supported, and loved me well.
What have I seen in these 30 years? Many things, but first of all a LOT of my own sin - pride, anger, laziness, passive-aggressive behavior, poor leadership, hardheartedness, selfishness, desire to please man more than God, apathy, and much, much more. I've failed many more people than I've actually helped. But I've also seen God's grace in super-abundance and that's the only thing that has enabled me to continue. In these 30 years I've seen CPC grow both numerically and spiritually. I've witnessed the church go through times of financial prosperity and times of financial crisis. I've noticed how the personality of Community has changed multiple times. I've seen up close and personal the good, the bad, and the ugly of church life. I've seen us plant other churches, start and close schools, be involved in the community, and care for many needs. I've seen church discipline administered on several occasions. I've personally experienced success and failure, affection and hate, encouragement and discouragement, support and rejection, credit and blame, etc. I've celebrated many births and mourned many deaths. I've seen little boys and girls grow up into mature believers who are now raising children of their own. I've witnessed unbelievers come to new life in Christ, families put back together, lives transformed, leaders developed, and believers overcome sinful life patterns. I've seen many join the church and many leave the church for various reasons. I've watched CPC grow from near obscurity to having a significant role in our community.
I've seen my own family sacrifice countless hours of family time for the sake of church activity and also endure the unique trials of ministry. I've watched my kids grow up as "pk's" and persevere through all the implications of that life. And I've benefited from an amazing wife who has graciously, patiently, lovingly, and faithfully supported me every single step of the way, especially as my weaknesses and sins have been exposed.
Here are a few things I have NOT seen these past 30 years. I have not seen the elders or deacons be contentious and divisive. I have not observed anything close to a church split. I have not observed a time when the Gospel was not held high as our standard. I have NEVER seen God lack in faithfulness, grace, and mercy to His church. Lamentations 3:23 says God's mercies are, "new every morning" so that's 10,957 mornings for me to have personally seen God be faithful to Community Presbyterian Church. That's 7,827 Sundays to have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ boldly proclaimed here at CPC.
30 years is a long time. The average tenure of a church pastor is between 3-4 years. Some of you reading this are probably wondering why I didn't leave about 26 years ago ... that would seem just about right!! The true miracle is that nobody has asked me to leave! I know I deserve to have been run off many times during these years but God has most graciously allowed me to work in a very unique church family that has loved and cared for me as I've literally grown up in her midst ... though I still have a good bit of growing left to do!
So I thank God for the patience, grace, support, compassion, and willingness of Community Presbyterian Church for allowing me to serve here these past 30 years. Not sure I'll make it another 30 in full-time ministry, but whatever I have left I look forward to God's continued grace and provision. To Christ, our King and Head, be all the glory!