Do you remember coloring as a child? Or just doing different kinds of art like painting or color-by-number? I was always better at color-by-number paintings, not so much start-from-scratch paintings. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I took so well to service repair work.
Do you know the difference between an architect designer and a service repairman? Coloring in the lines. That’s the difference. Repairmen are very good at repairing items that already have been designed and diagramed. Designers, well they dream. Designers like to draw the lines of the diagram. It seems that I took to repair work pretty easy. Ministry can be similar. In ministry, there are those folks that are called to maintain ministries and those that build foundations for ministry. The two can blend at times, but mostly, they are two different things.
I had never thought of myself as a foundation builder. For me, it was much less stressful to go with the flow. I remember the very first time God presented the idea to me of being a foundation builder.
Roger, yep it was him. Do you know Roger? Most likely, you do not. He lives in the northeast. He’s a mover and a shaker. He was in South Carolina when we first spoke. Ive never met Roger in person. He’s a friend of a friend that became my friend. You can tell within a few minutes of meeting him that he loves God, loves people, and loves church planting.
As we spoke about my family possibly leaving the southeastern U.S., he got excited. It made me excited. But to my annoyance, he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of me pastoring. He said, if you are coming, you’ve got to plant. He said, “Why would anyone want to build on another’s foundation?” He said, “Yea that’s what I want to do, build a new foundation.” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
In Romans 15: 18-21, Paul writes, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of sign and wonders, by the power of the spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
That was the verses he referenced. I told him, “Nope, I’ve never heard that verse before. I have never even considered wanting to do that.”
This led to a short season of self-examination; followed by some illumination from heaven. All those years of “wanting to become a pastor;” claiming to be called to pastor; had produced very little impact for the kingdom of God in the world around me.
I had never served as a vocational pastor, never been called by a committee, and had done “CERO” kingdom work at the positon of lead pastor. Oh yea, that’s a resume filler. From 2002 to 2018, ZERO kingdom impact as a lead pastor, yet, I KNOW GOD IS CALLING ME TO BE A PASTOR. Ha, what a joke.
So that was the beginning of the end for me. Church in the wild; the idea scared me to death. Doesn’t God’s callings do that to us, though? I mean, they don’t have to always scare us. It’s not one of those litmus tests, “does this scare me?” “Oh, then God is calling me here.”
But in the end, it was what it was….scary: A foundation builder.
At this point, you may be asking, what in the world are you saying? What is a foundation builder? That is a good question, and I’m glad you asked. Mostly for our purposes here, I mean a church planter, but that’s not the complete picture. Im “Mostly” talking of doing ministry that puts you directly in contact with unbelievers and new believers, I think. Building a ministry, especially a church, from scratch where there is no protocol, no tradition to buck, yet no rails to run on either.
Much of the pastoring ministry in the south is caring for the elderly; pastoring the seasoned flock; and mentoring/loving your fellow pastors. All GREAT things. All NEEDED things. That’s not the work I’m talking about. A foundation builder is not an upkeep property manager. A foundation builder is a civil engineer/ surveyor tromping through the brush and fighting the snakes, surveying the land. It’s a bulldozer driver, clearing the land. It’s even the construction contractor, building something out of nothing on the very plot where hopefully there will be an upkeep property manager one day.
Foundation building involves things like the Christian teacher completely emerged, neck deep, in the public school system; fighting back the secular darkness, working tirelessly for one conversation with a child or teacher that will have kingdom impact. It’s the service worker that gets to have more gospel conversations on a daily basis with people than most southern pastors have in a month. It’s the Christian going to the state prison to do Kairos or to county jails, building a brand new foundation for some “hoodlum” that will become a child of God. Its nursing home ministry, and moms ministry, School ministry and the down-casted “liquor bar” ministry. The list goes on and on. There is no limit to what this looks like.
So at this point, Im afraid I might give the idea that Im against being a Southern pastor. No. PLEASE don’t hear me even hinting at that. It’s a needed, wonderful position, which I have been completely and eternally impacted by. It’s what I thought I wanted to be. To my aggravation at first, but now my delight, it turns out, that’s not exactly what God had for our family. There was a decade long journey God took us on to get to this point.
Here’s where it gets good though.
God used that time to change me. He had called me to preach, in 2005, at an associational meeting in Tipton County MS, yet I was wrong that it meant to pastor in “the bible belt.” Easy sounded good to me. A nice, comfy position in a church that pays all my bills, has a nice house for my family to live in, loves the fact that I can differ the pitch or level of my voice to cue emotions during a sermon, and only really involves ministry where I’m most comfortable; I.E. shaking hands Sunday after church, receiving compliments after the sermon, and talking about fishing and baseball as they leave. This is NOT all of what pastoring is, but is mostly likely what I was craving.
It’s funny how things work out. The old hillbilly phrase is, “God sure works in mysterious ways.”
So at this moment, I sit in a hotel in Las Vegas, preparing for the scariest thing I can possibly fathom. Calling sinners that love their sin to repentance. God has “SHOVED” me through this door. I went kicking, screaming, and clawing.
But God is great, and gracious to provide our every need. This we are sure. Now I can’t imagine turning back. We so look forward to the next decade of God’s plans unfolding, doing kingdom work, however it looks, smells, taste, and feels. For that is the goal now, follow our Lord where he leads and try to make a kingdom impact for His glory!