Being a pastor is not easy on the heart, which is maybe why I had heart attack and mini-stroke while following my Savior’s call.
Add to that battling workaholism, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and a current brawl with prostate cancer has made it very evident that I don’t do what I do for just an earthly salary. If it weren’t for Jesus' reality, I would have cashed in my chips a while ago, but my daily mantra has become “I’m still here.”
Next year will mark 40 years since I graduated from Philadelphia College of Bible, in 1982, and entered full-time ministry. For the first 15 years, I worked specifically with youth, college-aged young people and singles. The last going on what will soon be 25 years, I have been called senior pastor.
Being The Lighthouse Church's lead minister has been some of the most gratifying, exciting, adventurous, and yet at times extremely difficult years of my life. Through it all, God’s faithfulness has been the common denominator in the midst of the good, bad and ugly.
Hearing God’s voice isn't always easy. There are moments when you passionately believe you are clearly in tune with heaven's hotline. There are other seasons when you swear it might have been the spicy food you should not have eaten after midnight from the night before.
I have spent many nights sitting in an empty sanctuary begging the Lord to chat with me like He did with Abraham, Moses and David. There have been moments when I wished that I could tune in to WGOD on the radio and get definitive directions from on high so I could do what's right here, in the lowlands. We have His Word in the Bible, and His Holy Spirit in our hearts, and His promise that if we lean not to our understanding, He will steer us into eternally ordained opportunities where we could serve Him for His honor and glory.
The last 24 years have been awesome in the reality that I have only had to move about from one home base here, in Cape May County. When God brought me here, however, it did mean leaving people that I had dearly loved in Omaha, Nebraska, and before that Stow, Ohio, and before that Dayton, Ohio, and before that I had to uproot from ministering to wonderful high school students living in my backyard, in Morris County.
Leaving those we love is never easy, which is why many people make an excuse of never getting close to anybody because of what might happen when they must move away.
God called me to jump into the lives of those He surrounds me with, like someone jumping into the ocean in May. You don’t count the cost; you do it because your heart would stop working if you didn’t.
I have forever connected with people I only knew in person on a weekend retreat. I have chosen to live with my heart on my sleeve and the Savior calling the shots in my soul.
Discipleship is not a business, church is not a commodity, and preaching is not like plumbing. You discover that you haven’t left your heart in San Francisco, but you have invested a piece of it in every life you pour your love into over the years.
I died on the inside when I left my campus life club kids in the late 1980s. I remember the joy of seeing so many of them come to know the Lord.
I also wanted to stay with the kids from Fairhaven Church, in Dayton. We made so many life-changing memories in such a short time.
When I was in Stow, Ohio, I thought I would be there forever. The adult sponsors were our best friends, and the teens were truly family to me.
Going to Omaha, we saddled up our horses and played Steven Curtis Chapman as the soundtrack of our great adventure. We saw over 1,000 young people show up for our outreaches alone.
I did not leave any of those places because I was finished doing what needed to be done. I was not moved out because I fell out of love with the precious sheep that God put under my care. I was just as effective on my last day as I was on my first day.
Tears still fill my eyes when I consider the names of the precious souls God allowed to be under my care. What a privilege and an honor to answer the Master's call, and if it were easy, I guess everyone would be doing it.
I want to share with you all the words of Paul from Acts 20:17-24. I fully feel like Paul did, in Acts 20:17-24, when, “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: 'You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord, Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city, the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.'”
Pastors do not retire. They hate leaving their flocks as much as their flocks hate seeing them go. Pastors go because the Lord leads them.
God provides His best for those who willingly obey His words. Churches don’t belong to us; they are the very Bride of Christ.
Not every pastor moves on to better positions. This is the second time that I am leaving something big to serve Him somewhere smaller. I go not because at 61 years old, while still battling cancer and praying for his newly born twin grandsons, it just seems like a great idea to uproot and start over. I go because I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord, Jesus, has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
I worked myself out of a job here, in Cape May County. God has His anointing on His appointed servant to lead Lighthouse into tomorrow. God is calling me to do what I do best: Communicate His truth to as many as possible as effectively as possible until I breathe my last.
I go in the Holy Spirit's power, trusting Him to provide His work and way for His praise. I look up and cry “look out" because the best is always yet to come.
Happy Birthday, Lighthouse Church. God has got you right where you need to be, in the palm of His Hand.
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.