This Sunday will be my 15th Anniversary as the Senior Pastor at Covenant Community Church. So allow me to use this opportunity to reminisce and doing a little reflecting on my 15 years here at Covenant.
In September 2000, I had no idea what a journey these 15 years would be, nor did I even contemplate the idea that I would still be the pastor after 15 years. There was a time in the past when long term pastor’s was the normal but it seems that now-a-days most pastorates no longer have that lengthy tenure.
There are many lessons these years have taught me. Here’s only a few: I could write a book about how not to sell one church building and buy another one. I have certainly learned you can’t be thin skinned and be a success pastor. I’ve learned that your schedule is never really your own. I’ve learned that if you are in town, you’re on duty. I’ve learned that you are going to have critics no matter what you do; so you might as well do what you believe in your heart is best and right and let the chips fall where they may. I’ve learned what the challenges are in preparing a congregation to separate from the fellowship with one denomination; being an independent congregation for 8 years and then uniting in a new covenant with a new denomination.
Those are just the tip of the iceberg of lessons I’ve learned in these 15 years and there have been many ups and downs. Yet as I reflect on my 15th Anniversary as Covenant’s Senior Pastor, I am simply filled with an “Overwhelming Honor.”
Fifteen years ago, I thought I was very happy in my very secure government career. I had a great position, excellent salary and benefits and was less than 9 years from a carefully planned retirement. To paraphrase the Raymond James commercial “It was a life well-planned.” I had even envisioned what my retirement career would be like. With a secure retirement income, I wanted to go pastor small churches that couldn’t afford a pastor. Hopefully, I would be able to lead those congregations to sufficient growth to where they could call a paid pastor to lead them and then I would go on to another small congregation and do the same thing again. But as the old saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go amuck!” And it did.
When some members of Covenant first approached me about applying for the vacant Pastorate of Covenant, I just shrugged it off. Later on, responding to their persistence, I put in my application knowing I would never get the position, but at least I would get them off my back talking about it. As the pastoral search did more and more follow up with me, I began to think “Wait-a-minute! This is not how this was supposed to go down!” I began to think, “If I’m selected as the candidate, will I take it? What happens to all of my life’s planning? I’m less than 9 years from full government retirement at minimum age with maximum years’ service.” I even tried to affect the selection process by giving references of people who didn’t like me. It didn’t work. I was chosen and surprisingly, with the Holy Spirit’s leading, the decision to say yes to God and Covenant’s calling wasn’t really that difficult. It was somewhat of a relief.
As it was on my first Sunday, it is also still true as I prepared to celebrate my 15th Anniversary as Covenant’s Pastor, I am still filled with an “Overwhelming Honor.”
Please do me the honor of joining me in worship at Covenant this Sunday as I celebrate this milestone in my life and the life of Covenant. My best friend in the ministry, Reverend Richard Barham of Spirit of the Cross Church in Huntsville, AL will be our guest preacher. His sermon will be “Overwhelming Honor.” His sermon text will be “I Thessalonians 5:12 & 13” and John 3:16-17.”