A few months ago, I ran across a letter I had written to Dec. Cephus Clifton in February of 2011. A few weeks prior, I received a unanimous call to serve as Mt. Salem Baptist Church of Victoria’s 10th Pastor in their 139-Year history as a local congregation. In essence, my letter said, “I can’t do this!” I went on to express that what Mt. Salem needed, I could not realistically fulfill. I conveyed my gratitude to him and the entire congregation for considering me, and placing their vote of confidence in my serving as their spiritual leader; and that I would be praying for them in the days, weeks and months to follow. The context of my letter entailed my assessment of all of the hurt, difficulty and challenge that the congregation had experienced. In light of their journey, I overwhelmingly sensed that I was inadequate as their next shepherd. Moreover, all of the challenges in Mt. Salem made me come to appreciate what my congregation back at home had going for itself. I began to second-guess myself. I began to have a change of heart. I began to think God made a misstep. So I wrote the letter.
I never sent the letter!
For the record, I am glad that I did not send the letter.
Fast-Forward five and a half years later. I’m sitting in the restroom of my hotel on a Saturday night, crying. In the morning I would stand and tell the people I had fallen in love with as Pastor, that I had been called to serve as the next Pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Further, that I believed it was God’s will for me to go.
On Sunday morning…I tried my best to make my way through my continuing exposition of Psalm 23. To be completely honest, I’m not clear on what I said in the message. To make matters worse, my distractions caused me to leave my notes and manuscript of my sermon at home. Because I had already informed those who were at Bible Study on Wednesday of my call; and that I had not officially accepted, but was praying…the crowd was more somber than usual. Mt. Salem is not an overly-boisterous crowd; and so the silence could have been anything at all. But I think both them and I were awaiting the announcement of my decision. No one in the room, except D’Ani, knew what my decision would be.
After church, we had a ‘church meeting.’ I told them that I believed God was speaking; and instructing me to serve as the Pastor of Shiloh. Again…I cannot recall what I said after that. What I saw were the faces of the people I had come to know and love. I saw the faces of young people I had baptized, counseled, comforted and even rebuked. I saw their tears. It took everything in me not to cry. Since I had already cried and had my moments the day before, I was able to make it through. Eventually, I led us in a word of prayer (I think); and then that was it.
And there it is. And there I was. Obedient to God; broken before His people…. The people I felt I couldn’t lead 5 years before, I didn’t want to leave.
For five years, God has taught me how to love and experience the love from a congregation through Mt. Salem. He has shown me what forgiveness, healing and transformation looks like. I have seen a group of people who were hurting love me and my family in a way I had never seen before. And I will always have a special place in my heart for Mt. Salem. I’ve concluded…God makes no missteps! He knows what He is doing; and He knows where He wants us. How Shiloh even came up is clearly God’s ordered steps… I’ll share that another time. But, to be sure, God knows what He is doing!
Over the next thirty (30) days, my family and I will make the transition from Houston-Victoria to North Texas. While I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life and ministry; and the people of Shiloh await us…my heart still lingers for the people of Mt. Salem. In turn, God has prepared my heart for the people of Shiloh; as He is also preparing the heart of my successor for the people of Mt. Salem. For this I am humbled and grateful. Please keep my family, Mt. Salem and the Shiloh Church in your prayers. God is faithful!