This past Sunday marked the last day of Jonathon Woodyard serving at Oak Park Baptist Church. He and his family (Gina, Calvin, and the newest edition Caleb) are making their way to Minneapolis, MN to study at Bethlehem Seminary. By God’s grace Oak Park called Chase Sears to be our new Family Pastor; he actually was here almost the whole month of May and several days into June. As I was thinking about the pastoral transitions that are currently going on (we have one more – a Worship Pastor) I was reflecting on God’s grace in my life, specifically the gift of allowing me to serve with like-minded brothers over the course of the last ten years. Dr. Mohler referred to this many years ago as doing ministry with a “band of brothers.” The context of his comments were in a conversation where he was lamenting that he doesn’t see more men venturing out and serving Christ and His church together. It’s a comment that I have been mindful of over the last several years. In fact, while I was serving at Highview I had the privilege of serving with several men who I still remain close to today (Kevin Ezell and Jimmy Scroggins as mentors, friends, and bosses and also guys closer to my age [sorry Kevin/Jimmy] like Brandon Shields, Dustin Schadt, Micah Millican, Travis Kaiser, Casey Casamento, Matt Weeks, Matthew McCraw, and many others). My next “stint” was Orlando, FL and I had the unique privilege of serving with my best friend (apart from my bride) Micah Millican. And over the course of the last two and a half years God has providentially and graciously allowed me to serve with Jonathon Woodyard and now Chase Sears.
Why bring this up? I bring it up because several weeks ago Mark Driscoll tweeted that being a pastor is lonely. Now, I’m not going to get all gushy and sentimental on you (if you’re still reading) but I have found his comments to be more true in the last several years than I ever have before. Maybe it’s because of my position? By virtue of being the main guy who preaches week-in-and-week-out most people look to me for wisdom, guidance, answers, and a whole of host of things! And to be quite honest, it’s daunting sometimes. Or maybe because of men like Kevin Ezell and Jimmy Scroggins I understand that pastoring is not relegated to the Sunday morning message; it’s the day-in-and-day-out arduous work of investing and shepherding people. Now, please don’t be mistaken. I absolutely grateful to God for setting me apart to pastor. I love what I do and I’m humbled to do it. But isn’t pastoring God’s people hard?!? Do you know how I know the answer to that question is a resounding yes? Because pastoring my heart is difficult. I prove time and time again to be obstinate, but God’s grace is powerful, transforming, and sweet.
So, in light of a difficult calling (yet, a gracious, humbling, and awesome one!) I believe it’s imperative to surround yourself with like-minded men…of course like-mindedness extends first and foremost to theological persuasions and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that first, but more and more I’m seeing the absolute necessity of sharing a philosophical ethos with another individual or individuals. If you’re the “guy” who leads the search to find the men in whom you’ll serve along with than great! But if you’re not, then one of the nonnegotiables that I would have on the forefront of my mind as I’m discerning where the Lord would have me serve is the issue of whether or not the other pastors (some at the very least) are individuals you would describe as a “band of brothers.” I understand you can’t know that upfront completely, but insofar as you can tell (by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit in your own life) you should seek to foster this.
For me, serving under guys like Kevin Ezell and Jimmy Scroggins and serving alongside guys like Brandon Shields, Micah Millican, Travis Kaiser, Jonathon Woodyard, and now Chase Sears (and others) has not only been a gift from God (James 1:17) but it has also been a catalyst to galvanize my soul many times over to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).
Thank you Jesus for the men you have placed in my life.