Earlier this week my wife and I had a uncommon occasion where we were alone in the car while we drove to my parents to spend the evening with them at a couple of different events. Since my mom keeps Bo and Lorelai during the day they were already there. Stephanie and I took advantage of the rare drive with no DVD blaring from the backseat (I can probably quote all three Madagascar movies in their entirety even though I have never actually watched one of them) and at one point listened to a really old Steven Curtis Chapman cd. This particular cd came up because Stephanie had tried to accuse me of singing the wrong lyrics to The Great Adventure right before we left our house. Now I may have no clue who Justin Bieber or Drake or Ariana Grande (sounds like a Starbucks drink, I mean should I be ordering that right now instead of a venti pumpkin spice latte with two pumps hazelnut and two pumps cinnamon dolce?) are and wouldn’t recognize a single song from any of them, but I do know old school contemporary Christian Music. As we sang and laughed and told stories of growing up in our different youth groups I began to reminisce. The next day I listened to the song some more, as well as a bunch of other music from that time in my life and from the last almost twenty years since high school. As I did so I began to reflect on the past twenty years since September 04, 1994.
September 04, 1994 was a Sunday. I remember it well. It was Labor Day weekend. My sister was home from college for the first time. I had just started my junior in high school. We (the MHS Buffs) had lost to Enid on Friday night. On Saturday I had gone to a third birthday party for my pastor’s son at the caboose in the McDonalds parking lot in McAlester. It was one of my Dad’s weekends to stay with Grandpa and take care of him. We sat in a different place at church that Sunday. It was just Mom, Julie, and me (dad was bringing Grandpa from Haileyville to our house in McAlester for lunch). We were a typical Baptist family and had our normal spot; it was on the section to the right a few rows from the front. But that Sunday we sat in the middle even closer to the front, right in the middle of the youth section. I couldn’t tell you what we sang or what Dr. Adams’ sermon was about but that day I quit fighting with God about the course and direction of my life. For over a year I had been wrestling with God over ministry. The previous summer I had gone to Centrifuge youth camp at Glorieta New Mexico with a small group of youth from the church. In the prayer garden one night I began to feel God tell me that I would be used by Him and be in ministry. I fought that hard for the next 14 months. On that Sunday I said yes to God and publically surrendered my life to ministry and it has been an adventure ever since.
I began meeting with my pastor (Randy Adams) once or twice a week and learning from him. We would talk about ministry and life. He would take me on hospital visits and he helped me increase my prayer life with how he drove his 1964 Mustang. I learned so much from him. I have continued to learn from him over the years and am thankful for God using him in my life. One thing he told me back then that I have never forgotten is that ministry is not about the glamour or prestige. I have not always lived that truth but it has been in those times where I have learned the depth of this truth in at times painful ways, but more on that later.
Besides meeting with Dr. Adams I was also one of the youth leaders of a local youth breakfast we had at our church every Thursday morning called Good Morning World. An older Italian gentleman (Art Quadracci) in our church led Good Morning World and he would always pick one or two youth to help find devotional speakers and to invite groups like the football or basketball teams. I also was a leader for our local FCA and help organize events and huddle group activities, although looking back we did not meet nearly as often as we should have. During my senior year I started teaching in the RA’s and helping with the kid’s ministry. I also had the opportunity to preach my first two sermons that year. My first sermon was at First Southern Baptist Church Crowder, Oklahoma, which is where I was baptized in 1986. My second sermon was at First Baptist Church Haileyville, Oklahoma. It was the church where my dad grew up, where my parents were married, and where my mom’s dad that I never got to know, my grandpa Jim Boyd, preached. Having that opportunity to preach in both of those places was a tremendous blessing.
When I graduated high school I went to Oklahoma Baptist University and continued my adventure in ministry. I had my first few ministry positions while at OBU which included serving as a youth minister at a rural church about an hour away from school, working at the largest youth camp in the USA, and working at my parents’ church in Ardmore, OK with the youth and college students. Since college I have served in full time roles, bi-vocational/part time roles, and unpaid/volunteer roles. Some of the time I have found my income from sales and retail management jobs during the latter two seasons. I have learned from and been blessed in every season of ministry I have experienced. I have worked with kids, youth, college students, young professional singles, married parents, and senior adults. I have been a youth minister, college director, intern, interim, missional pastor, and senior pastor. I have preached to a congregation of 4 and been on stage to lead a prayer in front of 7,000+. I have shared the Gospel with groups while sweaty and dirty on a high element ropes course, preached in a suit and tie, and everything in between. I have had the privilege to marry people and the responsibility of bringing comfort at a funeral. I have held young babies and sat with those taking their last breath. I have baptized young and old including in a pond that might have had snakes in it. My first sermon was a ten page typed manuscript that took just over 5 minutes, and I have shared with no notes at all for over an hour. I have worked in really small churches, really big churches, really old churches, and with one church from the birth of it up till it was ready to launch.
Some of the greatest high points of my life have come from ministry as well as some of the lowest of low. Apart from my wedding day and the birth of my kids the greatest memories I have are from ministry, but also a few years ago as I had an almost complete nervous breakdown on the side of the road while driving to children’s camp I thought ministry was going to kill me. As I reflect back to those highs and lows I really see something profound. The lows came when I started to think too much of myself and forget what ministry is about it. They came in part because of my own pride and my own issues with control and power. The highlights of 20 years of ministry are definitely people I have gotten to know and spend time with. That Thursday morning breakfast I helped lead, Good Morning World, well one of my tasks was to find speakers. A lot of times I didn’t find anyone and I would wind up speaking. I cannot tell you a single thing I talked about or a single verse I used. I know I used scripture each time. I can, however, tell you the names of three younger guys I gave rides to each week – Adam, Ben, and Stephen. Adam kept doing that after I graduated. He would go and pick up other kids and give them rides. He is married and is a dad, he has been teaching in Korea and is in the process of moving back to the US. Ben is a great dad and just moved from Michigan to Austin. Stephen, he was the annoying kid I was never excited about having to take, he was Ben’s little brother. He is now a tremendous worship leader and an author too. God has used him amazingly since Jr. High. There is also the group of guys I used to hang out with at Ardmore FBC and spend time talking and sharing about life. One, Matt, is a worship leader at a church campus here in OKC and is just a great young guy. Another, Brett, is a pastor and church planter in Muskogee, OK and if it was not over an hour away I would go to his church to hear him preach and have him as my pastor. God has used these two and others from that small group of guys immensely and it has been my joy to watch. A few of them are struggling in life and not living for God and I pray for them daily.
Now I am not taking any credit at all for Stephen or Matt or Brett. I doubt I had anything to do with their spiritual development. I just hung out with them. On the flip side the times I have been power happy and concerned with my image too much and wanting to be seen as a leader because of my title or position have brought about those low and gut wrenching times.
So to bring this all together I would unquestionably say that if I have learned anything over the past twenty years it is what Dr. Adams taught me all those years ago. It is that ministry is not about the glamour or the prestige. It is about loving God and loving people and seeking to love people by serving them. Jesus told us this when James and John’s mother wanted them to be the greatest. He replied:
You know those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42b-45.
The last twenty years have without a doubt been a great adventure and I hope the next twenty years and the next twenty years beyond that are even greater still.