Almost twenty years ago, I went to a Christian leadership conference. I was the only one there under 30; in fact I was only 16. My parents brought me hoping some things would resonate in my head and heart. Over the course of two days, I went to small, breakout sessions and large, general ones. The breakout sessions were fun and the facilitators treated me like I mattered, instead of an annoying teen. I felt an instant connection with one of them. That conference was where I caught a vision for my future. I kept thinking, “I WANT TO DO THAT! I WANT TO TEACH LEADERSHIP AND HELP OTHERS REACH THEIR POTENTIAL!” From then on, I’ve worked on reading, learning, communicating, teaching, team building, writing, and leading.I was at dinner with one of my mentors this past August and shared with him how I felt God stirring my heart to begin considering making a move toward ministry. Throughout 2013, God started cutting the ties that would have kept me from leaving, and I was ready to seriously consider a move. As we talked, my mentor began affirming the call. He also shared the type of roll I’d be good at – Executive Pastor (XP). The thought of being a pastor blew my mind, scared me, and left me a bit shocked. I looked at him and said, “Are you serious?” After we worked through how my life experiences and skill set were strong fits, I couldn’t believe it. By the way, my mentor is also an amazing XP and I am truly blessed beyond measure to have him in my life.
We left dinner that night with three main thoughts:1. The call to ministry must be affirmed by others, and he chose to be the first person to affirm it.
2. Think and pray about if for a few days. If the idea continued to grow, we would talk again.
3. He had a senior pastor friend that was looking for an XP. He would check to see if I could interview with him in order to get a flavor for what the interview process would be like. The last thing he wanted was for me to have my first interview with someone rough and be turned off.
Over the next few days I prayed and waited. The idea continued to grow in my heart and amazingly, without prompting, people began telling me how they thought I would be a great pastor! It was absolutely insane! I thought I was on the set of Punked! I reached back out to my mentor a week later and let him know that I was still interested. I think he was as excited as I was. He called his friend and he agreed to interview me.
I landed in North Carolina a few weeks later for my interview, and the pastor left me a nice voicemail encouraging me to go and drive by the church. It was 10pm at night, but I figured that wouldn’t be a bad idea since I didn’t want to be late in the morning (it would be Sunday and I would be there all day through their four services). I drove to the church and sat in the parking lot staring at the building thinking, “Yeah right…remember, this is a learning experience.” I felt the urge to get out of the car and walk up to the building. As I walked along the front, I started talking to God,“This is crazy…and you’re funny…but in the small chance that you are calling me to be a pastor here……..I will do it…and I will do it with my whole heart.”
I spent a day and a half with the pastors and staff. Everyone was filled with so much joy that I was instantly hooked. The next weekend my family and I drove back to visit again. And by the next Friday I had an offer which I accepted the following Monday. Did you follow that? From the time I left for North Carolina to the time I accepted, it had been two weeks.
The dream I caught twenty years ago is starting, and I am humbled, overwhelmed, scared, and excited! To think, two decades ago, God started a fire in my heart that has never waned, but has burned strong through career disappointments and significant personal challenges is miraculous.God has a plan for each of us. He gives us passions and deep desires for a reason. At the same time, we have to be willing to go through His process. I had to get crushed in many different ways throughout this journey. Two years ago, when we moved to Florida, I wasn’t ready. Twelve months ago, I still needed to deal with some issues and grow. Today I am not perfect, but am ready and excited to take the plunge.
Do you remember the facilitator who I connected with almost twenty years ago at that Christian leadership conference? His name is Dan Reiland (www.danreiland.com), and we kept in contact over the years. When I moved to Atlanta in 2004, he happened to already be living there. I asked him to mentor me and he excitedly agreed. He helped me work through many difficult issues. I cannot put into words how thankful I am for Dan as he is the same person who connected me to the church in North Carolina and was the first to affirm me, put his arms around me, and walk me into ministry. It brings me to tears every time I think about it. Could anyone have ever conceived that when we met, he would be used in such a way almost twenty years later? The Vegas odds are astronomical.So there you have it! Our family is moving from Jacksonville, FL to Chapel Hill, NC to serve at newhope Church (www.newhopenc.org) in Durham, NC. We plan to move the end of October and I will start the beginning of November. I am honored and excited to serve with Dr. Benji Kelley and his amazing staff. I encourage you to check out a message or two on the website or the podcast. If you are interested in what an XP actually does, please check out this great blog article: http://danreiland.com/needs-executive-pastor-anyway/
As we move, please pray for the following:1. God provides renters for our home in Jacksonville so that we don’t have to pay for both residences ASAP
2. My wife – new relationships, new area, moving details, etc.
3. Our boys as they move to a new school with new friends
4. The staff at newhope Church and my onboarding
5. My relationship with Pastor Benji