Monday, September 10, 2007

Reflections on 5 years

On August 23, 2002 I was married to Michelle Adair. Don't ask me why but somehow I managed to marry the most beautiful girl in the world. She is my everything! John Manley gave me some advice while we were dating. He told me not to get married because I was looking for an assistant pastor, but to choose my wife because she was someone I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I'm glad I followed his advice! Now, 5 years later my wife is essentially my assistant pastor, and I love her with all of my heart!! She does a great job being the director of our Kids Church ministry (she is essentially the children's pastor - she just don't get paid for it... :-) She averages around 30 bus kids that she handles every week - virtually by her self a lot of the time. She's a great cook, housewife, and student (she's in school for nursing). I love you honey - these past 5 years have been the best years of my life!

Twelve days after our wedding my wife and I moved to South Georgia. Cordele Georgia was a long way away from any of our family or friends, but Michelle and I both felt like this was the place God wanted us. I appreciate my wife's willingness to leave behind everything and everyone familiar to go where God had called us. She moved having never seen her soon to be home, having no idea what it looked like at all. She tells me that my description of our house was horrible and looked nothing like what it did...

September 8, 2002 was my first Sunday at our church. Yesterday marks our 5 year anniversary as the pastor. It is unbelievable how fast these 5 years have flown by!

I've learned a lot since being the pastor. I came as a young preacher who couldn't preach (I'm still struggling in this area :-) and who had a lot of zeal but not always a lot of brains to back up my zeal. I guess somehow I had gotten the impression while in Bible College that if I just went to my first church and made 1,000 calls in my first year and worked hard enough, things would just explode and the church would grow rapidly. One lesson God had taught me since being a pastor is that it's not about me. After being here for a year or so, God began to reveal some pride in my heart that would seek to grow the church so my name would be lifted up. It was not an easy discovery to come to terms with. The Lord has showed me that He does not measure success as man does.
Success for the pastor does not necessarily equal church growth. He began to probe me on the issue of the value of one soul. I had always said that it would be worth it for one soul to be saved. I sang the soul "If just one more soul, were to walk down the aisle. It would be worth every trouble, it would be worth every trial." I thought I did see the value of one soul, but God began to really speak to me about this issue. Was I willing to spend my life laboring at a small church, giving of myself, if the church never really grew to be a large church and if only one soul was saved in my entire life's work? The easy quick answer is "yes," but the reality was that I, like so many pastors, was driven by the image of success. Success for the pastor is to have people bragging on you and how quickly your church has grown since you've become the pastor. Success for the pastor is being "relevant" and having a great big large church. People may not come right out and say it, but that's the reality. If you doubt, just take a look around the internet at what pastor's will do in order to be viewed as successful.

Anyways, God began to speak to me about this issue. I guess in the back of my mind I had the view that I would go to this small church and it would grow some, but in two or three years and I would move on to a bigger and brighter church. God helped me to break free from this thinking and determine that if He wants me to stay here for the rest of my life, I am willing.

Thank God for His help these past 5 years. Has the church grown? Yes. When I first came to pastor here the church was averaging about 20 people. Now, we average around 50. But numbers have stopped being my barometer of success. Are numbers important? Yes, because they represent people. But, just because a church is small does not mean that God is not working in that church.

God has helped me to settle it not to go to the ways of the world to seek growth. Many churches are selling out in order to worship their god of church growth. Anything goes in order to see people come through the doors. God has helped me to remain committed to His Word and His method of church growth. Does this mean that I'm content to sit on the sidelines and "pray them in" as some seem to be content to do. Absolutely not! I believe that every church should be out in the streets witnessing and doing their best to see souls saved. I labor intensely to see souls won to Christ, and thank God we have seen many repent and give their lives to Him in these past 5 years. I love the Inter-Church Outreach and Bus Convention and what it means to our movement. Somehow or another, I even got elected as a member of it's board. I believe outreach is absolutely essential and we ought to be working fervently to see souls saved!

The past two weeks God has been blessing my church in a powerful way. There has been 5 people marvelously saved in the past two weeks. Three of these are brand new converts. One man was one of the worst drunks in town, but God has delivered him! It is wonderful to see God work!

I guess the most important lesson of all that God has been teaching me is this: everything I do should be for the glory of God. There have been times when I have grown frustrated because I've labored and labored and seen little happening. There have been times when I have felt like I was laboring alone at the church and no one else cared (obviously this wasn't true, but I'm just sharing how I felt). Just recently God so graciously helped me again to realize that I should not be laboring for the church. I should not even be laboring for the sake of lost souls. I do not do what I do for anyone else but for Him! This has given me a whole new perspective. Now when I go out visiting and there is no one else to go with me and I'm alone, when I drive the church bus and pick up my kids, and there is no one else to help, I don't have to grow discouraged and defeated because I'm not doing it for my church or even for the lost, but I'm doing it all for the glory of God and that's all that matters! I no longer have to be viewed as being a "successful" pastor by everyone else, all that really matter's is if God is being glorified in my efforts as a pastor!

Well, forgive me for this rather long, rambling post. Thank God for His help these past 5 years!

8 comments:

  1. Blessings on your marriage!

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  2. Great post. I am glad to see that there are still pastor's who believe in striving to see true growth not our modern day rapid growth that is so shallow and deminishes ever so quickly. Stay on the right track. Congrats on both annivesaries, at church and with Michelle.

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  3. Happy Anniversary! We love you guys!!!

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  4. Congratulations!
    Yes, I've gone through some of those same struggles you have Jon as a pastor, but God is faithful, isn't He?
    Keep up the great work!

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  5. Your preaching, and its power, is not limited to the sermon you deliver on Sunday morning. Through this website, you are giving encouragement to Christians beyond your Sunday congregation.
    Keep up the good work!
    Fr Kevin Holsapple
    St Anne's Church

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  6. Congrats! Blessing on you and your lovely wife. You are a blessing to this generation and it is refreshing to see pastors who are after the soul not the crowd or the money. God be with you continue to uphold the ministry.
    I know this is rather late but it is worth it.

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