After feeling a “call” to the ministry, I left my home church to work and serve at a church in Alvin, Texas (a town made famous as the home of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan). At the age of nineteen, I found myself with the title of “Pastor to Youth”. Here I was, a kid leading kids.
This experience was the equivalent of being thrown in a pool to learn how to swim. I was fortunate to have interned at my home church for about two years (after graduating high school) and to have had constant interaction with my Youth Pastor. I would call him weekly, sometimes daily, basically borrowing all of my ideas and plans and making them mine.
I remember my first parents meeting. Parents were asking me questions, grilling me, challenging me… man, was I out of my league. I had never been so scared in all of my life. Looking back on it, I realize that it might have just been my immaturity that made that experience seem so daunting, but nonetheless, I pretty much wanted to quit every Monday.
After leaving Alvin, I became youth pastor at a church on the west side of Houston. It was perfect because it was closer to the University and it paid me enough that I could live on my own. I was now 21 and it was at this time I truly began to find my stride and somewhat come into my own.
At First Baptist, I also encountered a healthy dose of church politics. During this time (circa 1986), the debate was raging among Southern Baptists regarding the “inerrancy issue”. Was the Bible the inerrant, infallible word of God? My pastor held to a very strict view of this on the side of “inerrancy” and clashed with some members of our congregation over it.
There was quite a battle. Several long (some lasting several hours) deacons meetings, church meetings and staff meetings ensued. Petitions were passed and signed to remove our pastor from office. The pastor used his pulpit to reinforce his viewpoints and defend himself. The schism grew wider and wider as the church staff, the people, families and ultimately our church divided over the issue.
On one Sunday morning, our entire staff (sans one) stood and resigned together. We left and started another church and had our first meeting that very night. It was very sad. It was a divorce. No one wins. Everyone loses.
What I found is that most of the people really didn’t care about the inerrancy issue. I didn’t. They cared about “being right” or being on the “winning side”. The entire thing was driven by a handful of people on both sides of the issue. Church splits are caused by Stupid Church People. They are caused by ego-driven people trying to get their own needs met. These are the epitome of SCP moments.
Although painful, this set in motion my desire to truly discover what church was meant to be. I began reading books (even non-Southern Baptist books – oh my) about church structure and dynamics. This event resulted in me eventually leaving the church to go back to school full-time to earn my degree. Good things did evolve from those painful experiences. I went to different churches, watched and met with other church leaders, listened more and spoke less. It was a time of growth and personal development.
But the “call” to ministry in my life remained strong. I am not sure entirely what being “called” means. My “home church” pastor told me before ordaining me that if I could do anything else other than be a pastor I should do it. He said I would know I wasn’t “called” if I felt it was “just a job”. He also told me to never quit on Mondays.
The “call” is hard to explain, but I hear others use it outside of ministry. It is being passionate about something, having to do that “calling” above all else. I wanted to be a pastor, but I didn’t want to waste my life fighting in church meetings, running from petition signers and battling deacon boards. There had to be a better way, a different way…and there was (well sort of).