Archive for the 'My First Church' Category

My First Church…(Part 4)

I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately as I’ve found a number of facebook friends from my first church, Pine Mountain Christian Community Church.  So, I thought that it might be fun to reminisce a little bit about how God brought me to PMC Church and some of the lessons I learned there.  This is the fourth in a series of posts on “My First Church“.

cfiles24505 This will be the last post in this series of posts on my first church, but I wanted to conclude the series with some final reflections on leaving PMC Church.

Leaving PMC Church was definitely one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do as a Pastor.  I loved (and still love) each of the people that I came to know through my ministry there.  I still talk to Pastor Ray pretty frequently, and I even see one of our Student Leaders (Bethany) every year at the Shepherds’ Conference.

When I spoke with Ray, Amy and I had already decided that we would stay at the church, as long as it took for them to find a new youth pastor, because we believed so strongly in the ministry there.  After moving to Bakersfield, this meant a lot of long early morning commutes (we would leave for church at 5am or 6am in the morning to make it for worship practice) and late nights (we would stay on Sundays ‘til 9pm 10pm for High School Group).  I still believe that it was best for us to stay on on a part time basis, rather than to simply abandon the ministry and let it die.  At the same time, staying for such a long time as a part time pastor did leave some pretty bad scars on me.

Anytime a pastor leaves there is a lot of pain involved for both the pastor and the flock.  In this case, what was already a really painful situation seemed to become even more painful as we waited for the next man God had in store for PMC and as we continued plugging along at the ministry.  Fortunately, in God’s sovereignty He did bring a new shepherd to PMC’s Youth Ministry and Worship Ministry (Ryan Rumbley), who is doing a great job of caring for the flock that I left behind.

cfiles47252 PMC Church has a changed a lot in the four years since I’ve been gone.  Pastor Ray is no longer pastoring there, many of the people who Amy and I knew have left, and some have gone to be with the Lord.  As I write this final reflection on leaving PMC Church, I’m reminded that the greatest joys in life are almost always combined with the greatest sorrows.  For Amy and I it was a great sorrow for us to leave PMC Church, but that great sorrow was combined with the great joy of knowing that I was being obedient to 1 Peter 3:7 and in time lead to the great joy of being called to Emmanuel Baptist Church where I continue to shepherd God’s flock here in Mount Vernon, WA.

September 07 2009 | My First Church | 2 Comments »

My First Church…(Part 3)

PineMountainClubMtPinosCam_031802_813am I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately as I’ve found a number of facebook friends from my first church, Pine Mountain Christian Community Church.  So, I thought that it might be fun to reminisce a little bit about how God brought me to PMC Church and some of the lessons I learned there.  This is the third in a series of posts on “My First Church“.

In the Spring of 2004 I walked into Pastor Ray’s office and confessed to him that God had convicted me of a serious sin that I needed to talk to him about.  I had been translating through the book of 1 Peter, when I came across a verse that hit me like a ton of bricks.  1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.”  In my study of 1 Peter, I had come to realize that I was not living out this verse.

While PMC is a beautiful place to live, it is also a very expensive place to live.  When we moved to PMC we knew that the church couldn’t afford to pay us enough to actually live there, so we had already decided that Amy would have to work in order for us to be in ministry there.  PMC is known as the “nearby, far away place” which is true enough.  The problem that we ran into was that PMC is over an hour away from the only place that Amy could find a teaching job, which meant two hours on the road for her every day.  The longer we lived in PMC, the more I saw the road take it’s toll on my dear wife, yet in my zeal for ministry I had blinded myself to 1 Peter 3:7 and my need to live with her in an understanding way.  I clearly understood that the commute was simply too much for Amy, yet I wanted to stay.  I also understood that we didn’t have any friends our age (as most of the population is retired) and that she was very lonely, yet I wanted to stay.  I also understood that we were putting off having children longer and longer as I made my way through seminary at a snails place, but I wanted to stay.  The point is that I fully understood that life in PMC, through no fault of the church, was terribly hard on my wife and on our family, yet I had ignored all of what I knew, because I wanted to stay.

ufiles776 Through all of this, Amy never complained or even asked me to consider leaving.  She simply toughed out the drive and helped support our family, but as I read 1 Peter 3:7 I was convicted that as the head of our household I needed to honor this passage by honoring my wife and living with her in an understanding way.

This decision meant some pretty radical changes for us.  After talking to Ray I put my house on the market, we began looking for an apartment in Bakersfield, and I started taking a lot more classes at seminary in order to finish as quickly as possible. 

As I reflect back on this time, I am struck by one significant fact: All of these changes were the direct result of God convicting my heart with one passage of Scripture.  With just 9 words God completely changed the direction of my life and threw out all of my self-made plans.  I guess the point is that when we allow God’s Word to speak into our lives with full authority it is radically powerful.  It is powerful enough to mend what we have broken and it is powerful enough to break our stubborn, prideful hearts.

August 17 2009 | My First Church | 1 Comment »

My First Church…(Part 2)

I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately as I’ve found a number of facebook friends from my first church, Pine Mountain Christian Community Church.  So, I thought that it might be fun to reminisce a little bit about how God brought me to PMC Church and some of the lessons I learned there.  This is the second in a series of posts on “My First Church“.

2509 Tirol Drive Snow C Having grown up in Bakersfield (God’s country), there were a lot of things about life in PMC that I wasn’t exactly prepared for.  In Bakersfield, when it gets cold you simply turn on the heater.  But, because propane is so expensive and there is no natural gas in PMC, I learned a lot about building a fire.  By the end of my four years at PMC, I was a master at building a great fire in our wood burning stove.

One of the hardest things about living in a mountain community like PMC, is the amount of driving that you have to do.  Amy and I would routinely drive 30 minutes to the nearest McDonald’s, just to get an ice cream cone (this was before we had kids).  To get groceries we would drive to Bakersfield (1 hour away) with a couple of ice chests to bring home food for the next two weeks.

Over the course of the 4 years that I was at PMC I spent time with a lot of different young people, each of which is still very dear to me.  However, one young man made a lasting impression on me that I will never forget, his name was Mike.

I met Mike and his brother one day at the church.  Mike walked up with his usual air of confidence and told me that he needed to do community service in order to stay out of jail and he was hoping that I could find some things for him to do.  I told him that I’d be sure to find some things for him to do, as long as he stuck close to me and didn’t mind if I told him about Jesus. 

Mike came from a pretty abusive home life.  I remember one time that he came to the church with a baseball bat in his hand.  When I asked him what that was for, he said it was in case his Dad decided to beat on him again.  Because his home life was so rough, Mike and I spent a lot of time together in those months.  He would oil the pews in the church, help out with our Jr. High kids and even went on one of our summer retreats with us, all the while I was praying for Mike and kept on telling him about Jesus.  After months of explaining the gospel to Mike, one night I just told him, “Mike, if you don’t believe the gospel, you’re going to go hell.”  To which he replied, “I know and I’m ok with that.”

One evening in February we had a group of 30 students at the church for the 30 Hour Famine, which is a fund-raiser for World Vision, when I got a call telling me that Mike had been killed in an afterschool fight.  It turned out that he had been punched in the throat, making it impossible for him to breathe.  I still wonder what thoughts raced through his mind as he suffocated to death on that mountain.  What did he think about as he the world began to fade?  Did anything that I said come to mind?  Did he cry out to Jesus in the last moments of his life?  Unfortunately, there are no answers to those kinds of questions.

In my 8 years of youth ministry, nothing has impressed upon me the urgency of the gospel message more than this young man’s death.  Young people have a way of believing that death will never come, but Mike is a reminder to me that life is short and each breath that we take is a gift from God.  The real question is how are we going to spend the few years that He has given us on this earth?

Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we might get a heart of wisdom.”  Mike’s death serves as a constant reminder to me to number my days and to use them for the glory of God.

August 10 2009 | My First Church | Comments Off on My First Church…(Part 2)

My First Church…(Part 1)

I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately as I’ve found a number of facebook friends from my first church, Pine Mountain Christian Community Church.  So, I thought that it might be fun to reminisce a little bit about how God brought me to PMC Church and some of the lessons I learned there.  This is the first in a series of posts on “My First Church“.

PMC%20Church%20in%20the%20Snow%20B On September 11, 2001 the worst terrorist attack in American History occurred.  I remember watching the news that morning as the twin towers fell and as the pentagon was attacked.  At the time I was working for an Industrial Medical Clinic as Amy was finishing her teaching credential.  Our plan was for Amy to begin teaching the following year and for me to go to seminary full time and begin looking for a church after that.  September 11th changed all of that.

That night my family had been invited to a BBQ where I ran into Scott, who was one of my old youth leaders from High School.  As we talked he mentioned that there was a church in Pine Mountain Club that was looking for a pastor who could lead worship and run a youth program and that I should give them a call.  In my mind, I was thinking that there was no way that I could actually land a ministry position but I knew that eventually I would be candidating and this would certainly give me some good experience, so I went ahead and called the church to get some more information.

pmcsnow1Pine Mountain Club (PMC) is located about 1 hour south-west of Bakersfield in the mountains.  It is a small town of about 2,000 full time residents and is a beautiful place to live.  PMC has a great golf course (which I spent a lot of time enjoying), a recreation center for kids, a community pool, and a lot of other amenities.  The summers in PMC are very pleasant and the winters  are simply majestic due to the snow fall and the mountainous atmosphere.

Having never candidated before I had no idea what to expect from the process.  The first thing that Pastor Ray (the pastor of PMC Church) asked for was a recording of me leading worship, which I promptly drove up to him.  Over the course of the next several months I spoke with Ray, spoke with the elders and even had a few elders come and watch me lead a college group at my home church (Riverlakes Community Church).

The whole process culminated in an interview with Ray and the elder board sometime that November and the next thing I knew, I was hired!  Amy and I went to Pastor Ray’s house after the meeting and spent some time with his wife and kids.  That night Ray began the process of discipling me in ministry.  I’ll never forget the lesson that he taught me that night.  He said, “When you’re in ministry one of the most important things that you can do is to always think the best of the sheep you are caring for.”  It was a simple lesson, but it has had profound implications for me in ministry.  I wish that I could say that I learned it immediately, but it’s probably taken up to this last year for me to finally get what Ray was trying to teach me that night.

I think one of the most significant lessons that I have learned as I reflect back on coming to PMC Church is to appreciate the absolute sovereignty of God over all of life.  Prior to that September 11th I had never even heard of Pine Mountain Club (I actually didn’t know that there was anything west of Frazier Park on that road).  Even after hearing about PMC Church I never actually believed that they would hire me, at best I was hoping to get experience candidating so I would be more prepared when the time came.  In the sovereignty of God, He knew that there was a church in PMC that needed a pastor and so he orchestrated all of the events of my life and the life of this church to bring me there.

August 03 2009 | My First Church | Comments Off on My First Church…(Part 1)