In the Fall of 2008, my family and I moved to Jacksonville from Los Angeles. My wife saw this transition coming and was somewhat braced for it. My children were too young to fully understand what was taking place. I was in shock.
I was invited to speak at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church for the first time on Memorial Day weekend, 2008. I was told I was not and would not be a candidate for the church’s pastoral opening. Then, I was asked to speak to the committees. Then, I was asked to speak again more than a month later. Then, about a month later, the congregation selected me as its new pastor.
I warned the men that I would not come if the church called me to be its pastor. I reasserted my position after the church voted overwhelmingly for me on July 30, 2008. When they asked me to come and tell the church personally that I was not coming (or that it was not their fault I was not coming), I agreed. It seems such a ridiculous decision looking back. But it made perfect sense to me at the time.
As I flew to Jacksonville, I prayed desperately and was convinced the Lord was sending me to Jacksonville. I cried, not understanding why the Lord was “punishing” me. I was serving the church I grew up in – a growing and peaceful congregation. Shiloh was in a crisis (translation: “scandal”) I wanted no part of. And from what I observed before in two visits, I knew church fights would be in my future.
Yet, despite all my reservations, the Lord sent me to Shiloh. From my limited perspective, I concluded the Lord was uprooting me from my home church. I did not expect to survive in Jacksonville for more than three years. And I had no clue what the future would hold for me and my family beyond that.
Fast forward to 2023, November 12 marks the fifteenth anniversary of my installation as pastor of the Shiloh Church. Serving this strong, warm, kind congregation has been a tremendous privilege. The Shiloh Church has been a God-sent gift to me – far more than I have to them. These years have not been without their challenges. The blessings have far outweighed the burdens.
When I arrived at Shiloh, I was often asked what I enjoyed about pastoring the church. My immediate answer was that Shiloh is a church where preaching is “in season” (2 Timothy 4:2). My answer is the same fifteen years later. The Shiloh Church is a congregation with a big appetite for God’s word that seeks to shape its body-life by the biblical authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There was no big celebration planned to mark this fifteenth anniversary. But there are many reasons to offer grateful praise to the Lord. By God’s grace, these have been fruitful years of Christian service. I have labored in preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17). Yet I feel like a mere bystander or onlooker at all the Lord has done. In spite of us, the Lord has done great things. And he alone deserves all the glory!
I praise the Lord for the privilege of serving the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church. I am grateful to the Shiloh Church family for affirming and following my leadership over these years. May the Lord grant many more fruitful years of gospel partnership between pastor and people.
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? Is it not you? – 1 Thessalonians 2:19
I love my church!