As I introduce myself as Pastor to the people of First Baptist of Jackson, and in the community, I realize the title of pastor can come with a wide variety of presumptions. So to help you get to know me in a more personal way, let me share a bit of my story…
If I could summarize who I am in a few sentences, I would do so like this:
Apart from Jesus, I am a self-righteous achiever that often reverts to basing my self-worth on my performance and approval by the people I view as most important. But I have come to realize, and need to be reminded of each day, that my value comes in being God’s masterpiece, which He has already accomplished in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. He set me free from my self-righteous pride that continually strives to earn his favor. It only condemns me because it never achieves true perfection and leads me further from trusting in God’s provision as Savior. I can rest knowing that Jesus has given me his perfect righteousness and promises to renew me as I cease striving and allow His Spirit to lead me, speak through me, and make a truly lasting impact in the hearts and lives of others as I point people to Him.
Let me explain my journey of faith in a bit more detail…
I came to know the Lord through the loving instruction and witness of my parents and church family. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I had the amazing opportunity to hear the message of the Good News of Jesus from an early age and know His love as displayed in my home consistently. At the age of five the Holy Spirit used a Sunday School lesson to convict me of my sin and realize that I faced eternal consequences of my sinful condition. As hard as I tried to be a good kid, I could never be good enough to erase the mistakes I had made. My sin separated me from God and no amount of good works could erase my sin. But it was at this time I also learned of God’s loving provision of coming to pay my penalty as He died on the cross and rose again. As I talked with my parents about these things over Sunday dinner, I was invited to respond by trusting Jesus as my Savior and receive His gift of eternal life. I was able to pray with my parents and testify of my faith, a decision that has lead to many more moments of surrender and much transformation to my life over the years as I have learned more of Jesus’ love for me and learned to trust Him more and more. Although I continued to struggle with the desire to perform, accomplish, and succeed, I also realized God’s love, forgiveness and grace.
I was baptized in my early teenage years. I remember the challenge of being a follower of Jesus in the public school I attended. At times my decision to honor the Lord in the various school activities caused me to stand out and face the ridicule of others who lived for pleasure and popularity. I learned that responding in love and conviction eventually earned a level of respect despite the differences. Thru these times of craving peer acceptance, I realized how important it was to understand the truth of God’s love for me that wasn’t based on my outward conformity to the pressures of society. I also experienced the love of His Body and realized how important it was to have people in our lives who could point us to Jesus as they demonstrated His love. With this foundation, I took some initial steps of encouraging others know the forgiveness and love of God and trust in Jesus. Although I rarely took the initiative to confront others, God seemed to bring opportunities to show His love in practical ways that led to deeper conversations.
I made the decision to go to Grace University to get a Bible education knowing it would be foundational for whatever career I entered. During my freshman year I was challenged to consider that if Jesus really was God the Son, and I was trusting Him to provide me with eternal life, then I also could trust Him entirely to lead me in this life. Only then could I truly experience the fullness of Life He promises to those who trust Him. I surrendered myself to the Lord’s will and do whatever He wanted me to do. I began to seek His leading for my future, and I began to recognize His desire to use me to teach others about Him in full time ministry. After experiencing cross-cultural missions work the following summer, my burden to share the Good News of Jesus with people back home in the USA was in the forefront of my mind. My heart ached for the opportunity to share the good news with people stuck in the performance of religion and the emptiness of seeking the approval of the crowd. Through various ministry experiences the Lord provided confirmation of my teaching abilities and I made the decision to pursue pastoral ministry. This conviction continued to grow and be refined throughout college and seminary.
I had the joy of serving as the lead pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church in Mt. Lake, MN from 2002-2019. I have learned to lead out of my love for Christ, with humility and love, caring for people’s hearts. I am burdened with the need for God’s thoughts to shape ours, and desire to proclaim God’s Word with conviction and boldness. I have been blessed by my involvement with the conference of churches I was a part of and numerous other local churches and pastors that I was able to work with over the years. God’s work through the greater Body of believers is an important part of our personal growth and witness in the community. I have also seen the impact a solid children’s ministry has in shaping the hearts and lives of those in the foundational stages of life. I am excited to see the AWANA program, Release Time, and Children’s Church ministry have a growing emphasis. It is amazing how I see the adults growing in Christ right alongside the kids as they step into roles as the disciple-maker and begin to model for the kids the heart of Christ. Our greatest spiritual growth often happens as we accept God’s call for us to make disciples and become the spiritual parent that seeks to shepherd the heart of others in need of God’s transforming work as they understand and trust in the Good News of Christ.
It is the desire of the leaders at First Baptist of Jackson to be a church that is a making disciples of Jesus Christ who are willing to disciple others. I am excited to help us continue to develop church where I as the pastor am equipping each believer to become a disciple-maker. I am being challenged to more closely follow Christ’s model of ministry, identifying his goals, strategy, and practices so that I can follow Him and learn from Him. I know that ministry success is not just about numbers, but the name of each person God sends our way and how we can help them explore and discover the love and truth of Jesus Christ that can transform them to reflect the glory of God in their own life.
I pray that you can join me as a part of this church family who devote ourselves to the Savior who gave Himself for us, develop as we allow Him to transform us from the inside out, and deploy us on the mission of leading others to Jesus in the everyday opportunities of life. I look forward to the opportunity to visit with you about the opportunity to build the Church together.