Back in 1998, at Second Baptist Church, when I said “Yes!” to what I heard to be God’s call for me to enter into ministry, I did so because I believed that God wanted to use my life to make a difference in the world. A few months later, I was hired by a church to be their youth pastor. I LOVED youth ministry. It was fun, energizing and so impactful to my reemerging faith. What made it most fulfilling, though, was being around young people who were so eager to engage the Bible, serve others and dive into the possibility that God had a plan for their lives. After nearly six years with that wonderful church, I sensed God inviting me into a discernment process about becoming an ordained pastor. In 2004, my family of three headed off to seminary. As I sat through classes, spent time with other seminarians, and prayerfully imagined what it would be like to serve a church as its pastor, I was filled with a deepening desire to see God’s Kingdom — the one that Jesus announced in the Scriptures — become more visible in my lifetime. I believed that God was saying to me that He had placed a particular combination of gifts, passion and purpose within me that, when stirred by the Holy Spirit, could be used to grow His Kingdom-Presence.
After my seminary education ended and my ordination process was complete, I was ordained into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on April 19, 2009. I remember, like it was yesterday, watching and listening to many mentors and peers in ministry lead the different parts of that worship service. I remember my friend preaching an empowering message of God claiming us as His beloved children. And I remember the moment when the entire room — a collection of those who had raised me in the faith as a child and teen, seminary classmates, friends and family — gathered around the chair I had been seated in, in the middle of the worship space, and laid their hands on me in an act of consecrating me for Christian ministry. That moment was a powerful display of the encouragement of the church, and a Holy Spirit-infused initiation into the work of growing God’s Kingdom!
From that moment on, all I’ve wanted to do in ministry is to point people into the direction of Jesus, to encourage them in the way of Jesus, to proclaim the truth of Jesus, and to live such a life that invites and attracts others to consider growing their own relationship with Jesus. I’ve operated from the posture (naïve as it may be) that if I focus all my energies into this direction, somehow the Kingdom of God will emerge around me.
As I’ve served the church over the past 20+ years on church staffs and as a church consultant, I have been given plenty of opportunities to see the church functioning as the Body of Christ, as well as numerous examples of good church folks getting stuck in a cycle of “Churchianity.” I’ve experienced churches who were engaging the culture with an alternative Good News to the “truth” our societies have presented. And I’ve watched as churches, either filled with fear or lacking in conviction, have tried to find a way to coexist with the kingdoms of this world. A church who is committed to Jesus and to sharing His Gospel seems to be an environment where faith, hope and love are in abundant supply. That’s the type of church that I have always wanted to serve. I just want to be a part of God’s growing Kingdom.
Seven years ago, when I was invited to join the pastoral team here at The Woodlands Methodist Church, I wanted to be sure that The United Methodist Church was the place for me. I had never been a Methodist and was only slightly familiar with their doctrine, polity and history. Thankfully, as I interviewed, I was given some background about things like prevenient grace, the Book of Discipline, and the Wesley Quadrilateral. These things and other insights helped me to trust that God was drawing me into a fellowship of believers who would be primed and ready to invest themselves in growing God’s Kingdom. Transitioning into such an environment gave me the confidence that I needed to relinquish my standing as a Disciples of Christ pastor and to begin the process of receiving full standing as an Ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church. After two years of coursework and interviews, I was officially granted this standing on May 30, 2017.
Now, five years after taking my vows to uphold the teachings and practices of The United Methodist Church, as outlined in our Book of Discipline, it seems that I may once again be transferring my denominational affiliation so that I can faithfully follow God’s call to Christian ministry. That UMC denomination that I was so eager to join, that collection of churches whose people were once so committed to proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus, to teaching the inspired Word of God, and to prioritizing the values of the Kingdom of God over the kingdoms of this world seems to be drifting into a direction that I am no longer able to travel. But, I remain interested in growing God’s Kingdom.
Thanks be to God that our church also remains interested in growing God’s Kingdom. As our leadership has been praying and seeking possible ways forward in our collective practice of Christian faith, there appears to be a path that allows our church, across both campuses, to disaffiliate from the UMC and to discern God’s will for our next part of the journey. That path has been laid out on the church website. Our first step is to show up to the main sanctuary on The Woodlands campus on Sunday, August 7, at 2:00 p.m. to cast your vote in agreement with the guidance of our pastors and trustees. I hope that you’ll do exactly that!
Here’s what I’ve learned over my 20+ years of ministry: Regardless of the church I’m serving or the denomination through which I’ve been given standing, I can join Jesus in revealing God’s Kingdom! And for the years I’ve got left in ministry that’s all I want to do. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do! I just want to grow the Kingdom … for the rest of my life.