The Heart Part 1
Well, I have been struggling lately to get motivated and blog so I have decided to take the thematic approach for a little bit here. Over the next little while I will be posting specifically about my experiences here at The Heart Church in Tulsa, OK. I will cover how my wife and I got involved, the history of the Heart from its beginnings as well as what we are currently doing and planning for the future. So sit back and enjoy these posts. I would love to have your feedback as well. So please do indeed leave comments.
Moving To Tulsa (or how I came to have the title of Pastor)…
In May 1998 I graduated from Missouri State University with a Masters Degree in Defense and Strategic Studies. Even during my time in the program I struggled with knowing what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Sure pursuing a career in the intelligence or defense sectors appealed to me and I pursued those things, but they never panned out for me and never did really seem like “me”. Shortly after graduating I began to teach part time at SBU/St. John’s School of Nursing in Springfield. It was here that I discovered that I loved to teach and be in front of people talking. (Sure talking has never been a problem for me, but doing so in front of groups has taken some practice.) Then in the summer of 1999 on a visit to my parents home in Enid, OK my wife and I were invited to lunch with my former youth pastor Mike and his wife Kim. During our time at lunch Pastor Mike and Kim explained to us how God had called them to plant a new church in Tulsa, OK. Well I had never been a part of anything like that and Missy and I pretty much looked at each other and smiled knowing that it just wasn’t for us. But shortly after we got back home to Springfield God began to change our hearts. And within a few weeks we changed our prayer from should “we go” to “when do we go”.
We moved to Tulsa in August 2000. Our daughter was only 9 months old, I did not have a job, Missy did not have a job, we did not know anyone in this new city other than Pastor Mike and his family. Also we moved in on the hottest day of the summer, it was well over 100 and I remember that it took the refigerator in our apartment a day or two to catch up from all the in and out activity. It was hot. Despite all this we knew that we were doing what God wanted us to do. It was not easy. I desperately looked for employment and did not find anything steady until January the next year. Oh yeah, I mean to tell you it was tight. But just at the right time God provided and we made it through a very stressful yet fulfilling time in our lives. There was one instance where we were about 24 hours from being evicted from our apartment and Pastor Mike showed up with a check to cover our rent and some groceries. It was amazing!!!
All throughout the next couple of years as the church was starting and as Missy, Eve and I were settling in on our new life in Tulsa there was still this struggle of what I was going to do with my life. You see while I went back and forth on a variety of other jobs and opportunities I was always very adamant that I was not called to the ministry. Ha! It’s funny to me even now as I type this out. But seriously, I did not want to be called a pastor and work full time at a church. Sure I loved helping out and being involved, but ministry was not for me. Why? I don’t know. I think that it was a combination of pride, selfish ambition, and negative stereotypes.
As we were involved with the church starting out one interesting development was that I enjoyed working with the sunday powerpoints and A/V equipment. Now we were pretty low budget and of course I had no formal training so we were not cutting edge by any means, but I did really enjoy the work. Early on in our church we relied on a lot of interns to fill important staff positions. We had a full-time pastor, a part-time worship leader (intern for the first year or two), and a part-time associate (intern). The guy who filled this part-time associate position was a little younger than I and was very interested and involved with video work. So while he was on staff our church began to use video, both in house and outsourced. Shortly before he left for seminary our church bought a Matrox video editing computer. We also had a Canon ZR60 mini dv camcorder and a Sony TRV 730 Digital 8. Wow!!! For a little while we were cutting edge, at least in our circles. But I loved it. I still love it. But God used video to slowly woo me into the ministry.
As Paul, our part-time associate, began to prepare to leave for seminary Mike approached me about coming on staff in a very limited capacity to help carry on what Paul had started in video. At the time I had been laid off a really crummy job and was working in the very unstable construction field and so the opportunity found me very willing (interesting how God works?!). So I officially came on staff at a very part-time 10 to 15 hours a week paid a minimal amount to ease the pain in May 2005. Of course, because I loved the work I spent way more that 10 to 15 hours a week, but did I mention that I loved the work? I was also helping plan and prepare our sunday morning services. Trying to come up with creative elements that would help drive home the sermon points from week to week. Now I do enjoy this process, but I will admit that I am not real good at it. Now just because I was on staff part-time and working at a church I was still very adamant about one important detail. I WAS NOT A PASTOR! (Again, I’m cracking up at this whole deal as I think about it.)
Just because I was only part time and just because I didn’t want to be called a pastor didn’t mean that I was unwilling to take advantage of the perks (there are some perks to being a pastor). The most important to me was a Pastor’s retreat put together by our denomination of churches. At this conference a man spoke about “The Call” and shared his own story of being called to ministry. It was during this conference that God laid it out pretty clear to me…I was going to be a pastor and I was going to like it! That was in February 2006. After we got back Missy and I were processing all that we had heard. I still remember now sitting on the couch in our living room and both of us coming to the same conclusion. I was going to be a Pastor. Now I know what you are thinking, you could be a tech pastor, and in some ways you are correct, but I knew in my spirit that God intended me to actually embrace the essence of what it means to “pastor”. That is to invest oneself in the lives of others so that they may know Jesus more clearly. Now obviously, my definition would technically make us all pastors and guess what…I’m right! Anyhow…
So I approached the church and August 2006 I began to transition from being just the “Tech Guy” to a more pastoral role encompassing things such as Small Groups ministry and discipleship. And I still struggled internally with the idea of being called a pastor. In fact is was not until Febraury 2008 that I officially accepted the title of Pastor. I surrendered myself to this by becoming ordained by our denomination. Almost 2 years exactly to the day from the Pastor’s Conference when God finally got my attention. Over time my responsibilities have shifted and changed. Currently I serve as the Mission Pastor at The Heart Church. My responsibility is to what I can to make sure that as a church we are on mission. That includes things like discipleship and our Community Group ministry, serving our local community through service projects, and being aware and joining in God’s work around the world through mission trips. To date I have lead 4 groups to NOLA and the Gulf Coast in support of Hurricane Katrina relief, I have taken 2 trips to Niger West Africa in support of Hosanna Institute of the Sahel, as well as led Community Groups and Community Group leaders. Every day is a challenge for me to remain plugged in and committed to that calling. I have worn myself out resisting God and his plans for my life. Just today I wrote out a very short, but important note to myself. It says “I love being a part of God’s work!” To me it summarizes where I am at in my calling with God.
In a few words, how would you summarize where you are at with God’s calling in your life?