I’m a few weeks out from celebrating my anniversary of coming to Valley Baptist Church. May 20, 2014 marks the completion of 7 years of serving Christ at this wonderful church. I’m simply in awe of what God has done during my time here. This isn’t a blog to talk about church numbers to build up my resume or self-esteem. The reality is, I know how little I’ve done and how God has been the master orchestrator behind the restart of this wonderful church.
God’s provision over the years is highlighted through my present circumstances. In a recent blog, “Thankfulness Revived”, I shared about almost losing my wife and child during the delivery. I mentioned that there were a number of things I was processing concerning God’s faithfulness to me. I’d like to share about His provision to us through this trial.
As my wife came out of recovery from surgery, we slowly learned how close to dying she and the baby came. From the very beginning the doctors were very firm about how long the recovery would take. Six weeks was an optimistic timeline, but they were very clear that I needed to be there for her and the family for the duration or complications from the surgery and blood loss would develop. Without hesitation, I assured her that I would take a break from everything to focus on her and the family. No preaching, no counseling, nothing but focusing on my family during this time. Okay, clearly I’m not six weeks out yet, but I’m at home with my two-year old son nipping at my heels as I type this so hopefully you get the heart of what I’m saying. Oh, and I may have slipped out under the cloak of darkness to spend some time with the K-9 Unit of EPD a few weeks ago while my mother-in-law was over...I guess this is my confession.
I haven’t preached since February 16 and I won’t return to the pulpit of Valley Baptist until the first Sunday in April. Yes, not preaching is killing me, but I’ve always said my family is my priority and I mean it. What I’m trying to say is that the reason I can do this is through God’s provision and timing. For the last 7 years I’ve worked hard. I’m not complaining at all, I love my calling, but it’s very normal for me to put in 60+ hours a week in ministry. My family loves serving the Lord and we’ve learn to balance family and ministry in a way that works for us. Between my working from home (in large part) and home schooling the kids we’ve learned to balance time with each other and the heavy workload of my calling, but this isn’t really relevant to this post.
Getting back to the point. Back in the hospital room, when I told my wife, “Everything is going to be fine. I’ll take the next six weeks off to minister to you” tears filled my eyes. Yes, I was worried about my wife, but even more so, I was thankful to God for His provision that made my ability to say this to my wife truthfully. I truly could take this time off for God had provided the help I needed in order to care for my family.
Throughout the restarting process, God has faithfully sent the right people at the right time. Too many to list so I won’t even try. A few years ago, I started to feel like I was stretching way too thin. Things were slipping through the cracks. As a pastor, “things slipping through the cracks” means people had shepherding needs, but I was failing to care for them as I feel they should be. No one was criticizing me, complaining to me, or anything like that, but my heart for the sheep was deeply burdened. I didn’t know how to solve this problem because I couldn’t give any more. I decided to press on and pray, as I had no remedy in sight.
Well, a little over a year ago God set the ball in motion to bring me help through the coming of Chaplain Ben, a Navy Chaplain who started attending Valley Baptist Church. It wasn’t long before we hit it off. We share a likeminded passion for the ministry and share the same philosophy for the church and how to care for people. This doesn’t mean we see eye-to-eye on every theological point, but we are in total agreement for how to handle and apply our differences of theological positions. It was a wonderful friendship that I would enjoy for as long as he was with us. As a former Navy man, the one thing I’ve learned about Navy buddies is they move on. This would be the case with Ben as well—or so I thought!
Word came that Ben would be getting out of the military and everything changed. Long story short, we both came to the conclusion that God was calling him to serve at Valley Baptist Church as an associate pastor! You know, if you asked me to describe the perfect associate pastor to serve with, I would have described Pastor Ben to you. I don’t say this lightly. We agree about how ministry should be done and we have complimentary gifting. He was a chaplain in the Navy and in many respects, Valley Baptist Church needed a chaplain-like pastor to help stop people’s needs from slipping through the cracks.
Now, fast forward to February 2014. Pastor Ben was essentially out of the Navy and we began planning what this partnership would look like. We spent hour’s together working through our roles and responsibilities. I believe we both felt comfortable with the new dynamic and we planned to introduce him formally on March 2 and he would preach for the next three weeks so I could focus on my family with the coming of the baby on March 7, you know, the due date. Have you heard that saying from Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps”? That was sure applicable here because my plan wasn’t inline with God’s plan at all!
Please don’t miss my sarcasm, but wouldn’t you guess that God’s plan is way better than my plan? What better way for Pastor Ben to figure out the ropes at Valley Baptist Church than to totally take me out of the equation? This was a win-win situation for church. Pastor Ben’s coming on staff completely freed me to care for my family. He is so competent and capable to serve the body, which ultimately put me at ease to shut off my phone and email (for the most part) without worrying about the church. Not having me around forced him to figure out every little detail concerning the church.
As I begin to come out of hibernation, I can’t help but to thank God for His ways. They are so much better than my own. I’m excited for the future of Valley Baptist Church and truly believe our pastor team is stronger than ever because of this personal crisis of my own. I’m more excited than ever to see how God is going to move amongst us in the years to come!
Let me close by saying “Thank you.” I’m thankful to God for His provision. I’m thankful for the people of Valley Baptist Church who recognize and support my priority of caring for my family. It means so much to me. In being free to minister to my family during their time of need, I will be able to minister at Valley Baptist Church for the long haul. Your love and support mean more than I can adequately express.