The Subjective and Ignorant Call of God Into the Ministry

I continued to work in the church through the summer and fall of 1985. I couldn’t get enough of it. The more I did, the more I wanted to do. The church was the world’s greatest playland. My career at Delaval—the machine shop—was going well too. God was showing favor there as I was becoming more involved in committees and training. It was an excellent job for me.

I told Cal Pearson, one of my bosses, that I couldn’t foresee me doing anything else in my life. But I did add that if I do grow weary of the job, I will leave. Of course, I could not possibly imagine that happening. My comment to Call was instructive because it was less than a month later when I noticed there was a drawing of my heart from Delaval. It was out of the blue; I was growing weary of my job. It was amazing.

There was no script for what I was going through, and I was unprepared for the unexpected. The work that I loved doing was becoming taxing and frustrating. Shortly after talking to Cal, I wanted to be somewhere else though I didn’t know where that would be. The only clue I had was that my heart yearned to do more work for the Lord in the context of a local church. These thoughts brought fear and angst.

The Call of God?

Simultaneous to my soul troubles, some of the good church folks hinted that God was calling me into the ministry. “Going into the ministry” is a term from the Independent Baptist movement of churches that meant if a male, Christian had zeal and a desire (burden), God was calling him to full-time work. The three options are pastor, missionary, and evangelist. Yeah, weird, right? But it wasn’t then.

Their approach to pursuing the ministry is not wise even though men do it all the time in religious cultures. Some of the things missing in this equation are a lack of assessment of the person’s gift mix, character, and a season for the outworking of his gifting. And, of course, how he loves and leads his family are critical data points. Discerning these things did not happen. I received no counsel. The irony is that I was merely acting out the gospel in my life as I was learning from Bible reading, preaching, and modeling what I saw other Christians doing.

In retrospect, God was not calling me. Living out the teaching of the Bible should be typical for all believers. If you grow in your understanding of the Bible and live it out, you’re transforming into an expected Christian life. Reflectively, I see how my life was counter to the nominalism in the church. I was the new, shiny thing, and the people were ignorantly excited about the zealous Christian in their midst.

This kind of ignorance is the false continuum that says if you have zeal, God is calling you into the ministry. And the good Christian folks were not shy about stating their opinions regarding my vocational future. Their “encouragement” became a sinful temptation to me. I did not want to “go into the ministry.” I was terrified of this notion.

But their not-so-veiled-comments continued while nobody came alongside me to talk about these matters. They were observing me and giving opinions on how they thought about my future or what God was doing in my heart. It became a waiting game for them. I did not know how it worked, but they knew the day was coming when I would “surrender” to the “call to go into the ministry.”

I just needed to work it out so the inevitable would happen. I think about how insane this is today. How devastating to a person and his family when you “expect” him into the ministry without careful evaluation and soul care.

When You’re Unsure: Wait, Pray, Expect, Enjoy

RMlogo When You're Unsure, Wait, Pray, Expect, and Enjoy

Summer 1985 – I couldn’t get enough of serving God in the context of the local church. After God turned my heart toward Grace Baptist Church, I joined, got baptized, began showing up for everything, worked in AWANA ministry, and looked for more to do.

During that first summer, the Lord began to burden me about a teaching ministry. I didn’t know Christian protocol and didn’t think I should ask anyone since I was the new kid on the block. (Read about the Fear of Man) And I was the most immature Christian in the building. Many of those folks had been serving the Lord longer than I had been living. Even the ones my age knew the Lord for twelve, fifteen, or more years. I was the resident novice.

I came for visitation as well as shoveling dirt at the new Fellowship Hall that we were building. I was available, bring it on. And I wanted to teach too. Why not? I had to do more for the Lord. It was like something had possessed me. I didn’t know about qualifications, abilities, gift-mixes, or even if there was an available slot for a rookie like me. No matter; here am I, send me!

If You’re Unsure, Wait and Pray

Since I was uninformed about protocol regarding how they set-up their teachers for the upcoming fall classes, I decided I wouldn’t say anything to anyone. I would pray, and if God wanted me to help in the Sunday school classes, He would make that known to the leadership of the church.

It probably wasn’t two or three weeks after that when Gerald, the pastor, asked if I could meet him for lunch. We were at a Burger King on Highway 74, the main drag in Monroe, North Carolina. We ate, talked about various things, and then out of nowhere, he asked if I wanted to teach during the coming Sunday school year. I could have fallen out of my chair. I was simultaneously terrified and exhilarated.

I wanted to, but I was afraid. I was also fearful because this was the first thing I remember where God seemed to be actively working in my life. I didn’t tell a soul, and now I was being asked. It was surreal and exciting.

I said, “Yes,” and off I went. I served in an assistant role that year, and my first lesson was the first chapter of Luke. I’ll never forget it. It took me the entire week to prepare for that lesson. I didn’t know much of anything about my Bible. And I knew less of Luke and had no training in teaching.

I’ll never forget some of the things I learned from that lesson. I have taught thousands of times since. It’s harder to remember those lessons, but I remember that one. It was the first; it was fun, and God was kind.

That opportunity set a trajectory for my life. God put something in my heart. My life was about to change forever, although I had no idea how tragic it would be.

The Ironic Day When I Brought Revival to Our Little Church

RMlogo The Ironic Day When I Brought Revival to Our Little Church

June 1985 – The Lord’s conviction was as powerful as my love for rock and roll—a real dilemma. I do not remember if I went “down to the altar” to repent of this “sin” or not. (The altar in an Independent Baptist Church is the steps that lead up to the platform where the preacher preaches.)

Many Baptist preachers end their sermons by giving an altar call. It’s “closing the deal,” as you make your way up front and pour out your heart to the Lord while the congregation waits and watches. Being the “good Baptist” that I was, I probably hit the altar. It was vital for me to do business with God.

I suspect there were others in the altar too. Don’s message was one of those that guaranteed a crowd upfront. I mean, who wanted to be the one who shut down a revival?

Back Home: Decision Time

I’ll never forget what I did after I arrived home. It was a Sunday afternoon, in June, in North Carolina, and it was hot. The conviction was so controlling that I couldn’t wait any longer to get rid of those wicked rock albums. I collected them and went to the burn barrel (a 55-gallon drum with the top cut out of it) in the backyard. We lived in the country. The standard way to get rid of your trash was to burn it.

I threw my stack of albums into the barrel, which was a joyless process. (Every act of obedience is not a happy one, at least not for me.) Because it was a Sunday, I could not burn them. There was an unwritten sin about mowing the lawn or burning trash on Sundays. As a new Baptist, I was not up to speed on all the transgressions that aren’t in the Bible, but I did learn them eventually.

Nevertheless, I was as obedient as I could be, and it was a Sunday. I went back to the church meeting that night, knowing that if revival did not come, it would not be my fault. There was no way that I would “stay the hand of God” within nine months of becoming a convert. It never dawned on me how arrogant I was in thinking that I could control the Lord, or bring revival. It was a great church meeting that night.

The Morning After

The next day I was “mostly” onboard with God about those albums, though there was a gnawing feeling of regret while at work. Upon arriving home, I entered the front door and kept walking right out the back door. I just couldn’t let them go. I made my way to the burn barrel, silently glad that I obeyed God by not burning them on Sunday.

Yesterday’s church meetings were over, and so was my conviction. What in the world was I thinking? It is so funny—now—when I peered into that trash barrel. I saw all those albums in a contorted, twisted, and melted mess. They had been sitting in the blazing sun all day.

I felt a twinge of conviction and embarrassment in my soul for attempting to retrieve them. The Lord was making sure that I would not get them back, so He made arrangements to remove this “sin” out of my life permanently.

It is a humorous story from a young man trying to make his way in his new faith. The good news is that we had a revival that week because of God (and me). The bad news is that I burned all those classics.

The Rest of the Story – The Lord gave me iTunes twenty years later.

You Won’t Have Revival If You Listen to Rock Music

RMlogo You Won't Have Revival If You Listen to Rock Music

May 1985 – After hearing from God that we should be at Grace Baptist Church, we started visiting immediately. Baptists call this finding your “home church.” We were about to get us one. Yay!

Grace Baptist was not my first “home church.” I attended First Baptist Church when I was a kid. It was “the church” if you were somebody. Our family did not fit the social category, but we wanted to be what those good Christian folks were. From my perspective, the Deacon’s kids had good weed, so I loved that church.

By the time I was ten or eleven, I stopped the church scene. My mother was the impetus behind us going since my dad was a drunk. But she could no longer manage us. We were on our own, living in the illusionary world of self-reliance before the pre-teen years.

I did attend Tabernacle Baptist Church a few times, the flagship fundamentalist church in the area. I’m not sure why that happened, though I think my brother was dating a girl who was an attendee.

Then I went to another fundamentalist church because Archie and Ann—the couple that worked at Judd’s Restaurant where I bused tables—attended that church. I started my “Judd’s career” at twelve, and wanted to fit in with the others, and they were good churchgoing folks too when they weren’t stealing food from Judd (the owner) during the week.

It’s Revival Week

When we began attending Grace Baptist Church, now that God had regenerated me, they were preparing for revival week. It sounded cool. Don Fitch and the “Singing Fitch Family” was there all week. In the Independent Baptist circles, they have what they call revival meetings. They aren’t revivals in the purest sense of the word.

They snatched the word from a bygone era when there were revivals in America and Europe. The so-called “revivals” of today are a quiet echo of a long-gone reality. It’s more symbolism than substance though the stalwarts feel good about them.

I’ve never been part of a legitimate revival. Nevertheless, it was revival week, praise God! And the Singing Fitch Family was doing the honors. Don and his family toured mostly the south in a large bus, serving small local churches.

Don was preaching on Sunday morning. His prop statement was that if any of us had any known sin in our lives, there would be no revival that week. (Which may explain why there has not been a revival in nearly one-hundred years.)

He said that any sin in our lives would “hold back the hand of God” and revival would not come. Oh, my! It was clear that if revival didn’t happen, it would have been my fault. I had known sin in my life. I took his message to heart and knew that God was speaking directly to me, through this man.

I had only been a Christian for a few months, and I had been listening to rock music all my life. As Paul said in Ephesians 4:22,

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.

Shazam! I had a “former manner of life,” and I brought it into my Christian experience. And now I’m at one of the first crossroads in my young Christian experience. Was I going to obey God or continue living my pagan lifestyle? Oh, how powerful the conviction from the Lord for listening to rock and roll.

My mind immediately went to my extensive collection of classic rock albums. What would I do? The Lord put His finger on my sin, and it was on me as to whether Grace Baptist Church would experience a revival that week.

To be continued.

The Compelling Desire to Be a Fundamentalist

We were sitting in the main auditorium of a Southern Baptist church in the spring of 1985. It was there where it became evident that we should be at Grace Baptist Church on Weddington Road. It was such clarity, as though it came from nowhere. I was sitting there thinking about “whatever,” and then my mind was filled with this need to attend Grace Baptist, the fundamentalist church across town. My wife agreed.

Shortly after God saved me, there was this urge to find a local church and become a member. This “prompting” was one of many things that began to happen to me. I had never had the urge to find a local church or become part of one before salvation. My life had changed, and I was led mysteriously by another power. It was a new day, an objectively different day. After redemption, we went in search of a local church. We visited a Pentecostal church, Southern Baptist churches, Independent churches, and Presbyterian churches. I had no clue about doctrine, the Bible’s teaching on the local church, or the value of the local church, but knew we had to be part of one.

Sometime in the winter or spring of 84-85, we visited Grace Baptist, a fundamentalist church. I do not remember our first visit. But I do remember some of the experiences with that church. The most notable one was walking through the foyer and observing the mem standing there, with their Bibles tucked under their arms while talking about God. This scene was so odd to me. To hear people talking about God outside the “sanctuary” was unheard of—to me. And it got “worse.”

We visited with members of Grace Baptist in their homes, and their conversation would inevitably lead toward God, Christ, and what He did for them. It was surreal; I didn’t know you could do that, but it was compelling. Some of the men of the church were Gerald Medlin (pastor), Rick Baker, Doug Webb, and a few others. Later Jim Greenburg came to our church, and it formed some of the fondest memories that I ever had in any local church then or now.

While sitting in that Southern Baptist church—a friend of mine from Delaval invited me—I knew I was supposed to be part of Grace Baptist. The next Sunday, we went and never left until we moved to Greenville, South Carolina.

These were my formative years as a new convert. I remember walking in Grace Baptist in those early days with my Living Bible, a paraphrase, not knowing that I had the wrong Bible, which was one of the hottest issues in the Independent Baptist movement. I noticed the “guys” all had Scofield Reference Bibles. So, I got one—a red-leather-covered one and carried it proudly. I soon found my place in the vestibule, making up the gauntlet that greeted folks. I was one of the boys.

A Twisted and Surprising Search for Significance

A Twisted and Surprising Search for Significance

Circa 1984 – As noted with the Disappointment with God article, there was no perceptible change in my life after the Lord regenerated me. Prior to salvation, I had tried many things in my short twenty-four years of living. I smoked pot, drank beer, hung out with fun and not so fun people. I planned to make a million dollars by the time I was thirty. I landed in jail at fifteen-years-old.

I went to work when I was twelve—hauling hay and busing tables— and was “self-sufficient” before I became a teen. I moved out and began living with my grandmother at fifteen and was determined to set a different course that would make me happy. I was in search of something better than what I had, but clueless as to what I needed to do.

If someone were to ask me what I was searching for, I could not tell them. Other than I wanted a break, something better, a kinder life. I was determined, disciplined, but had no plan to get out of personal and familial prison. By the time God saved me, I had a wife, two kids, 3.42 acres of land, a double-wide mobile home, a 24 x 24 concrete-floored workshop, a John Deere riding mower and seemingly most anything I wanted.

But I didn’t have a vision; I was living one day at a time. These new things did not bring the peace that I hoped would happen. Maybe I needed to take a risk to be successful, but, again, clueless. Ignorance is not bliss. I tried Amway. That didn’t work. I began selling Aloe Vera, Forever Living Products. That didn’t pan out as well.

Inwardly, I was unhappy. Even though no one was perceptive to my plight. I was secretly frustrated.

Then Came Success

As I remember it, the time was March 1985 when I noticed something coming over me. I was changing inwardly but it was so gradual that I didn’t perceive what was happening. The Lord saved me six months earlier. I was initially disappointed because I couldn’t feel it.

The changes were similar to the growth of a child; you don’t see it happening. And then six months pass, and you see it. I began to experience the “thing” that I had been hoping would happen for so long. It was surprising on two fronts: (1) I didn’t know what I was looking for, and (2) the thing I didn’t realize I was looking for was gradually happening.

For the first time in my life, I was experiencing peace. I was becoming “soul-settled.” It was an incredible experience. I thought “success” meant money or fame. I was wrong. Being successful took an unsuspected turn. Real success is knowing God.

Mercifully, I realized at a relatively young age that what I needed more than anything else was “soul shalom.” I had found it, or it might be more accurate to say that it found me.

He found me.

My First Two Disappointments with God

Our Life My First Two Disappointments with God

1984 – I got up from my bed and looked out the blinds of my bedroom shortly after asking God to save me. I do not know all the reasons I did that. I do remember there was an expectation in my mind that things would be immediately, noticeably different.

I cracked the blinds apart and stared out the window into our front yard. I will never forget what I saw. It was the same thing that I had seen every other time I looked out that window. The trees were the same; the grass was the same; the sky was the same. It was all the same.

This moment after salvation was my first disappointment with God. I honestly expected things to be different—to look differently and to feel differently. Things were not any different than 30 minutes prior. The thought that went through my mind was fireworks in the sky or a marching band parading down Helms Pond Road. I was disappointed.

Though I didn’t know it, I was thinking like a Gnostic. The physical was evil, and the spiritual was superior, and I expected to discern the differences. I did not know that I was going to learn to live out my “spiritual life” in the context of the physical world, and the significant changes and differences would be in my heart and then in my actions. The transformation did not happen in the world but in my heart.

The changes were taking place at that moment, though I did not perceive it. I was slowly, albeit imperceptibly transforming. The Lord was opening, spiritually speaking. No one knew it or could discern it, but the transformation of Rick Thomas was taking place.

Disappointment Number Two

My second disappointment with God came the next day. I was at work, and there was this girl that worked up the line from us. I don’t remember her name. She was in her 20’s, I suppose, and was quite trim and tall. She was not ugly, but on the production line, your perceptions are not the clearest.

Nevertheless, the days she would come back to our area allowed us to gawk at her, make lewd comments, and commit multiple adulteries in our minds. On this particular day, I had the same thoughts and stole the same looks like any other day. But something happened in my heart that I don’t remember ever happening before. I felt a tinge of conviction about the gawk, the lust, the temptation. I was paying attention to my soul like never before. I felt bad. Weird.

There was something dynamic going on in my heart. I was lusting, something I had done for as long as I could remember. There had never been a tinge of guilt or a desire not to do this. The Spirit of God was cluing me in on how things were going to be from that point forward. I was born again. It became clear that I was now in the world, but not of the world.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

From Running To Biking To Permanent Injury

Circa 1983 – Cycling was my second passion after running. So after my knee blew out on a nine-mile run, I started looking into other ways to exercise. I suppose it was less about working out, and more about getting outside to relieve stress.

My ultimate hope was to run a marathon. I was impressed by Grete Waitz, the Norwegian marathon runner. She ran in a marathon in Charlotte, NC, and I participated in the 5K event. She was one of the few “stars” that I ever met as a youngster. It was a small world back then.

My problem is that when I do something, I overachieve typically, and running was one of those instances. When you mix an overachiever with a lack of instruction, you will have issues. Hence, I blew out my knee.

My most in-depth longing was for someone to appreciate me. So like a pinball bouncing off obstacle after obstacle, I was in search of something with which I could succeed. And though I may “couch my exercise” into a fitness narrative, that was not the whole truth. I had to run farther, longer than anyone, own the best shoes, read the right books, and prepare excessively.

I was on a 9-mile run one day around Olive Branch and Helms Pond Roads—it was a loop. At the 7-mile mark, something happened to my right knee. It was so painful that I thought that I heard it pop. It was excruciating pain. Not to be defeated, I finished the course and ran back to the house. My running days were over.

Shortly after that, some guys at work introduced me to cycling. Cal Pearson and Liston Darby were two biking advocates. I bought a Panasonic bicycle. It was a racing bike, about $350 (I don’t remember.) I also purchased a “fish-eye” computer to go on it. The “tech idols” were tempting me back then, too.

Cycling was a total blast; I was over the moon. My knee could make the movements, and there was no foot pounding on asphalt. It was the perfect exercise. I would get up early and go to Cal’s house, and we would ride with a group of folks from Delaval—the manufacturer where we all worked. We would bike across the county on a Saturday, which was 50 to 60 miles. And then back home by noon. It was so much fun.

I remember one day when I decided to go on a 100-mile trek—such an overachiever. I set my fish-eye and off I went by myself. About 75 miles into the trip, my knee went out. It was the same injury, the same pain, the same stupidity. I knew my “excessive biking career” was over. Just like the running injury, I had to finish the course.

So I rode my bike the remaining 25 miles on a bum knee. I would pedal hard with my left leg, and my right would sort of tag along. That worked fine until I came to a hill that required more “leg teamwork.”

I tapered off intensive training. It was about a year after my bike injury that I became a Christian, which set another trajectory for my life. Interestingly enough, my metabolism was so sped-up that it was another nine months before I began to gain weight. I continued to eat like a runner/biker, and my metabolism took care of it.

Then it didn’t!

And This Is Why I Call Her Saint Lucia

RMlogo And This Is Why I Call Her Saint Lucia

Sometimes there is nothing more to say. Lucia received this kind note from a long-time friend the other day. What our friend said to my wife is no secret because I live with Lucia. And those who know us best know that Lucia is the one that makes all the difference.

Lucia is the best example of Christlikeness of any person that I have ever met. I have learned more about Jesus from her than from anyone else. And I wholeheartedly agree with our friend that I could not be or do what I do without her. This note from our friend is why I call my bride, “Saint Lucia.”

Dear Lucia,

I meant to write you this email last Friday night right after you both left our house. It’s been in my head all this time, and I’m just today getting the chance to write it down.

I just wanted to thank you for being my friend for so many years. You have helped me in so many ways over the years, and I’ve modeled much of my life after what I’ve seen and heard from you. I remember before I had kids, how much you helped me when I was scared to death to get pregnant because of my fear of giving birth and fear of hospitals. You took the time to explain birth in a more beautiful way than I had ever heard; it permanently changed my mind and my feelings of terror surrounding it.

You also introduced me to natural birth and so many natural things. There has also been a myriad of homeschooling and parenting issues you’ve helped me that have been monumental for me. And you’ve challenged me on things I needed to take to the Lord and repent of, especially in my marriage. Thank you!

And beyond these huge things, what I’ve most appreciated is you just being you, chatting, and caring. You have been a true friend to me.

I admit that I used to be a bit star-struck with you and Rick back when I worshipped pastors and their wives, thinking that they were somehow a higher-level Christian than the rest of us. But the more I’ve gotten to know you both, especially you, as just people, I’ve come to appreciate you much more.

You being a homeschool mom with a business to run and serving a husband who has been physically in too much pain to help with much work around the house, it has shown me such a picture of sacrifice. That’s how I view you.

I don’t know of anyone who sacrifices more than you do for the good of your family. And I know that Rick’s success in his ministry is a direct result of your sacrifice. I often think about how, without having an immensely sacrificial “helper,” he would not be where he is today. I don’t know how you do all that you do. It astounds me every time I think about it.

I’ve been reminiscing about how precious it was to me that we were able to get more time together and grow closer during the year that you were going through the cancer news; decisions; emotions; prayers; surgery, and outcomes. Though I hated seeing you go through such a hard trial, I got to see your vulnerability as you shared your real faith, real struggles, and real victories!

I so appreciated your openness, and I loved walking through it with you in prayer. Though I’ll probably forever feel like I have nothing significant to offer you (being younger and less mature) I was so thankful during that season that I was able to take on the role as encouragement-giver and you could be the receiver (though of course, I probably gained an enormous amount from you than you did from me).

God was so present and spoken to me many times during that period so that I could share His encouragements with you. I loved seeing how God was at work in you. And when I was worried about you, He gave me confidence that He was holding and protecting you through it all and was going to use it mightily for good in your family as well as in many people’s lives who heard and read about your journey. He did great work in my life through your journey.

I never want you to feel that people have more to gain from Rick than from you, or that people only care because of Rick’s giftings and ministry. That is untrue. Your impact on everyone is significant, especially on your friends and especially when you are free just to be you. Not counselor or mentor, but just Lucia. Your presence and contented spirit are radiant. My favorite part of the other night was when you opened up your life to us; sharing your thoughts, how you’ve been doing; how the cancer recovery has progressed, and just sharing your delightful self. You’re a joy, and I love you.

I’m so thankful for our friendship and just wanted to let you know.

Have a blessed weekend.
Your Friend

The Canada Conference

RMlogo The Canada Conference

We flew into Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Saturday to meet our friends Chris and Lisa Rice from Bethany Baptist Church, which is in Red Deer, Canada. They scheduled a week of meetings prior to our two-day conference the following weekend.

We spent Saturday night through Monday morning in Canmore and Banff, Alberta, which gave us ample time to walk, talk, and tour. We needed time together to get a good overview of expectations for the week, as well as learn about the church body that we would be serving.

Lisa had done a masterful job prepping the church for this conference, as she partnered with her pastor to serve their congregation. For example, the body has been reading my articles for several months, which gave them a flavor of how we “practicalize the gospel” into lives.

Pre-Conference Prep

Lisa also set up several meetings for me to observe and equip the various teams and ministries, which served as a ramp-up for the conference on Friday and Saturday. Our “conferencing philosophy” is not to “over-prep” until we get onsite and begin learning the church. I did not want to predetermine what I wanted to say until I knew the audience that I would be serving–as well as I could understand them.

The meetings that she had for me were instrumental in gathering the most data to serve them the most effectively. Here is my schedule before the conference.

1. Monday Evening: Met with the Servant Leadership Team to listen as they discussed all their ministry spheres of the church. Then I taught for approximately 30-minutes at the end.

2. Tuesday Morning: Taught the ladies Bible study while interacting with these women by answering their questions based on the discussion.

3. Tuesday Afternoon: Had lunch with the pastor and wife, which was a time to get to know each other and hear their hearts for their people.

4. Tuesday Evening: I attended the elder’s meeting as they covered various topics for one hour and then I equipped them by fielding questions for two hours.

5. Wednesday Morning: Taught the men at their breakfast meeting, which was at the church building.

6. Wednesday Mid-morning: I taught the 65-Alive group, which were the seniors from the church, as well as a few visitors from the community.

7. Wednesday Evening: I taught at the youth meeting, which was also interactive. A total blast!

8. Thursday Morning: Lucia and I met with the church staff to talk about envisioning ideas, things that I had observed thus far, and some plans for future equipping of the church.

9. Thursday Afternoon: We went to lunch with the two pastors and their wives, which was an excellent time of fellowship.

10. Thursday Evening: Lucia and I met with the men’s and women’s leaders for a few hours of questions and answers over light snacks.

These meetings were instructive in that I had met with every demographic of the church, had one counseling session, and several meetings with pastors, leaders, and friends.

The Conference

The conference began on Friday evening where I had two sessions, and several sessions all day Saturday.

They also scheduled me to teach Sunday school and at the preaching hour on Sunday. From Monday to Sunday, there were sixteen teaching contexts, which gave us many opportunities to learn and serve this local body.

I did appeal to them to make all our times together as interactive as possible so I could learn them and adapt along the way. Their questions kept me from doing what I wanted to do.

Do You Know Me?

Our conferencing philosophy is similar to our counseling philosophy in that you don’t want to over-plan without knowing your audience. The best way to help a person or a church is to know them first.

Lisa did a fantastic job in preparing the church before our arrival and then giving me multiple contexts to learn the folks so that I could serve them well.

It was a blessed time. Many tears, deep conversations, encouraged lives, and I trust we collectively advanced the fame of the Father.