Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Today was one of the biggest events of my life. Words fail as I wrestle with the emotions and significance of the event. At 40 years old, and after having lived an amazingly full life up to this point, I feel like life is really just about to begin. Today I was ordained as a minister of the Gospel at National Hills Baptist Church by Dr. Kevin Steele and the deacon body, and my family and I were commissioned as missionaries to Haiti. Tomorrow we pick up our moving truck, Tuesday we drive to Florida, Wednesday we load our stuff on a DC-3, and Thursday we fly to Haiti.
I first felt the call to full time ministry at First Baptist Church of Alpine in California. This call was confirmed by Pastor Hal Rollins. It was there that I preached my first sermon. However, I was in the Navy and assigned to a ship. I was consumed by my role in the Navy and struggled even to live a life walking in step with the Spirit, let alone minister to others. Sure I had a few small victories, but nothing like the victorious life that an elder/overseer is called to in 1 Timothy 3.
Probably the most growth that I had was as a civilian deployed with the Army to Kuwait. In 2002 and 2003 in the heat of the Operation Iraqi Freedom kickoff with scud missiles being shot out of the air overhead, long days and nights in bunkers donning chemical protective suits, and lots of time spent in prayer and reading the bible – I grew spiritually like never before. With the help of Air Force Chaplain Steven T. Dabbs I was taught to rightly divide the Word of God along Navy Diver Shannon Johnson.
That was some of the best fellowship I have ever had. Free from the distractions of “normal life” and a real sense of full dependence on God for my every breath, I dug into the Word, prayer, and fellowship like never before. I cherish those days and thank God for them always.
Leaving Kuwait was actually hard. I missed my family dearly, but I was able to experience Christian discipleship, fellowship, and love in its purest form. Chaplain Dabbs and the body of believers in Kuwait laid hands on me before I left, and I have struggled to fit in anywhere since then. We were from all different Christian denominations (even had a few Catholic observers in the mix) each with our own canned theology, and we were all challenged by the Word and our fellowship with each other. I experienced this fellowship again in Afghanistan. There is nothing like a building full of men with rifles worshiping our God and facing death every day to make for some great music.
I came back and wrestled hard to fit in to normal American life in general, and even harder into normal American Church culture. I can see now that God was preparing my family and I for something very different, but there were many hard years of trying to find my way. I was going to be able to use all those experiences God had given me, but I had to learn to love my normal brothers and sisters first, and respect proper biblical authority.
I helped plant a church just before moving to Augusta. It was so hard because it seemed that the focus was simply on logistics and Christ was being forgotten. It seemed that if we could just simplify things and leave out all of the complicated parts such as a building things would be easier. This led me into the modern American house church movement where things got much harder.
After close to 5 years and 3 vain attempts with house churches I finally realized the biggest missing piece was being properly sent out. The last house church I was a part of did a serious study into Acts looking at a Biblical model for a church plant. In every case the Apostles were sent out to do their work officially by a sending body. This is how God does it and skipping this step will spell disaster if you are a child of God and He is being merciful to you.
Through a series of events we ended up at National Hills Baptist. We did not fit in perfectly there, but I had come to realize that we are not going to fit in perfectly anywhere. Everyone has their gifts and idiosyncrasies. We use our gifts to glorify God and give forgiveness and grace on the rest. That is what real unity looks like. The only place everyone looks and acts just alike is a cult.
We fell in love with the people at National Hills and were able to use our God given gifts to glorify God and edify the body. I can say with certainty that the most fruit I have ever experienced from investing in people has been during my time here. It is a privilege to have served with this body and I consider it a privilege to be ordained and commissioned from here.
I feel confident now like never before as I step out into full time ministry in Haiti. Thank you God, for your mercy and your calling. Thank you for never giving up on me. I feel like I am finally ready.
Romans 11:29 for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.