The latest ‘big news’ to you, is humbling to me
Have you heard the big news? Read the related story in this issue of The Pathway and you will see that the Executive Board recently took action to call an Executive Director. That’s big news. The interim period lasted almost 22 months. That’s a long time. It felt like a long time to me.
But, after 22 months of thorough investigation and fervent prayer, the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director Search Committee recommended and the board accepted their recommendation to call me as the next MBC Executive Director. Can you believe it? I must admit I am having some difficulty believing the news myself. Myra says that she is not surprised. My mother is pleased and proud. My mother-in-law is perplexed and all my brothers and my sister are questioning the validity of the reports—I’m just kidding about my siblings and my mother-in-law, I think? I’m smiling.
I have to give credit where credit is due. For almost 37 years, Myra has been my partner in life, my dedicated wife. For 23 years, she has been my partner in ministry, worship leader and choral director in the churches I have pastored. Truly, without the encouragement of my wife, I would not be where I am today—likely, I would not even be in the ministry.
Now let’s be clear—I was not called into the ministry by my wife. I was called by my Lord. Myra did not expect to be married to a preacher when she accepted my proposal of marriage. In fact, as the daughter of a Missouri Baptist preacher, she was glad to finally be out of a pastoral home. Myra did not have a desire to be a preacher’s wife. But she did have a desire to live centered in the will of God. And, while she was somewhat surprised when I announced that God was calling me into the ministry—likely, I would not have been in a position to even hear that call without the unwavering witness and encouragement of Myra in the early years of our marriage. Never underestimate the importance and the impact of a godly wife.
I have to admit, I feel a little like Moses, in Exodus chapter three, where he seemed to be trying to talk God out of his own assignment as the one who would lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. Moses was shocked that the Lord had chosen him for that important task. And, I am shocked that God has allowed me to be a significant part of this chapter in Missouri Baptist history. Moses asked, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” I have asked a similar question hundreds of times in the past months—even more so, in the past few days as I reflect on the new assignment that God has given to me.
Who am I that I have been chosen to serve Missouri Baptists in this unique way? I am as common as a white picket fence in small town Missouri. I am no more important than any other Missouri Baptist. I am convinced that God was thinking of someone just like me when He said “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I promise you, God is about to get another opportunity to show Himself strong in Missouri Baptist life.
I am a simple preacher of the Gospel. For almost 20 years, I have pastored Missouri Baptist churches. And, while I did not have what some might call a spectacular career as a pastor, I was privileged to serve some spectacular Missouri Baptist churches in rural mid-Missouri, in urban St. Louis and in the suburban Kansas City area.
Who am I? I am simply a servant of Jesus Christ and of Missouri Baptists.
Moses also asked, “What do I say when the people ask me, ‘What or Who gives you the right to fill this job?’” That, of course, is a paraphrase—a practical application of Exodus 3:13. God’s answer comes in verse fourteen, “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
Numerous times, especially over the past few months, I have asked myself the same question that Moses asked. “What or Who gives me the right to fill this job?” My answer also is similar to the answer given to Moses. I fully recognize that there is nothing I could have done—no accomplishment I could have achieved that would qualify me to serve the Lord as I serve Missouri Baptists in this unique way. Please know that I would not have accepted the offer of the Executive Board to serve as Executive Director of the MBC, except for the call of God on my life. “I AM has sent me to you.”
I am reminded of the time I was ordained as a deacon. I was being ordained along with three other men. One of the agenda items for the ordination service was a time of testimony. We were to each give our Christian testimony. We had been asked to also include something about how we came to be asked to serve as deacons, and what the office of deacon meant to us. I had planned and prayed and prepared diligently for that testimony. But for all my preparation, the most profound thing I could think of to say was to admit to the church that I am not qualified to serve in this significant role—that I am not worthy of the office of deacon.
I prepared my testimony. I wrote it out. I practiced it several times. I thought I was going to be so profound. But, by the time I was called on to give my testimony, three men ahead of me had already made the statement I wanted to make. The other men being ordained that night all had stated that they were unworthy to serve as a deacon. They had stolen my words. What was I going to say?
I began as I had planned to begin. I made the statement that “I am not worthy to serve as a deacon.” And in the next moment, I made perhaps the most profound statement I have made in more than 20 years of Gospel ministry. I said again, “I am not worthy to serve as a deacon—except through Jesus Christ. But through Jesus I am worthy and I thank Him for His worthiness in me.”
The same is true, 26 years later, concerning my new assignment. I am not worthy to be your Executive Director—except through Jesus Christ. But through Jesus I am worthy and I thank Him for His worthiness in me.