Today I am celebrating 20 years of full-time, post-seminary, pastoral ministry!
Upon graduation from Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, at 25 years of age, my wife (Bobbie) and I arrived at Greencastle Church of the Nazarene in Greencastle, IN. - We stayed there in ministry for 12 1/2 years. (Those poor people!)
It was while in Greencastle that our two children were born. Sarah, our first born, is now 19 and has just finished her freshman year at our Alma mater, Trevecca Nazarene University. Our son, Matthew, just finished his freshman year at my high school, Floyd Central.
It was also while serving at Greencastle that I entered into Holy Orders, being ordained an elder (presbyter/priest) at the hands of the Rev'd. Dr. James Diehl, surrounded by the elders of the Southwest Indiana District on July 17, 1996.
Of course, I was involved in ministry prior to that 20 year mark. I preached my first sermon at the age of 15 or 16 (I'll have to double check, but I do have a cassette tape of it!). On October 19, 1986, I received my first Local Minister's License. I was 17 and a Senior in high school. The license was issued to me by the Church Board of the Georgetown (IN) Church of the Nazarene under the pastorate of the Rev'd. Russell Parker. (A Local Minister's License is the very first step toward ordination, and the holder of such a license is not consider to be clergy.)
My Local Minister's License was renewed the next two years through the New Albany Eastside (now Christ's Community) Church of the Nazarene, under the pastorate of the Rev'd. Dr. Garry D. Pate (who now serves as my district superintendent). And in 1989, under the district superintendency of the Rev'd. Dr. B.G. Wiggs and the general superintendency of The Rev'd. Dr. Jerald Johnson, I was issued my first District Minister's License by the Southwest Indiana District, Church of the Nazarene. At that point, though the license must be renewed each year, a person so licensed is consider to be clergy. And so, I held a district license until I was ordained in 1996.
During college and seminary, I held various ministry positions. I did pulpit supply in Nazarene and Wesleyan churches. I directed a Summer Day Camp for the Salvation Army one year. I worked as a youth pastor at the New Albany Eastside (now Christ's Community) Church for two summers. I was a volunteer Music Minister at Foster Avenue Wesleyan Church in Nashville, TN. And I served as the pastor of Gunn City (MO) Christian Church for a year and a half while in seminary. But my first, real, full-time, post-seminary pastoral position began 20 years ago at the Greencastle Church of the Nazarene.
In 2006, we moved from Greencastle to Grace Church of the Nazarene in Evansville, IN It was while at Grace that I completed my doctoral work at Asbury Theological Seminary. We continued in ministry in Evansville for almost four years.
Finally, in 2006, we moved to Greenville, IN. I took an assignment as the pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in nearby New Albany. My Nazarene designation is Special Service / Inter-denominational. In the United Methodist Church I am designated "Other Methodist" (as opposed to other Christian denomination).
Two years into our ministry at Centenary, that church entered into a two-point charge relationship with Main Street United Methodist, and I became the pastor of two United Methodist Churches.
At this point, my two churches, along with three other United Methodist churches in New Albany, are in the midst of "Vital Merger" talks. If the vital merger is voted for by the congregations, that means that I will no longer be the pastor in my present setting. - What will we do? Where will we be? We trust that God knows the answer, and that the One who has been faithful these 20 years (well, really, all our lives!) will continue to be faithful to guide and direct our paths and supply our needs.
God has, indeed, been faithful and gracious toward us these 20 years. And we are so thankful for the good, godly people who have become a part of our family in the churches we have been blessed to serve.
After 20 years, my desire is that the next 20 years will prove to be more effective than the first 20 in Christlike ministry for the glory of God. - Thanks and praise be to God!