My First week of pastoring started with a New Years Eve service. In my youth they were called “watch night” services. The one we had was our introduction to our fledgling congregation. There was music, Susanne even sang a special. I brought something between a greeting and a devotional. It was more a greeting than a sermon. I told them of our trip from Kansas City to South Texas. Afterward the entire congregation (small) went to Denny’s for breakfast after midnight. Susanne and I drove into Corpus Christi and it was so foggy I could barely see anything in front of me. If I knew how to get back I would have turned around and headed that direction. We made it safely to Denny’s, and ate and talked and laughed with our new friends and parishioners. I would officially preach my first sermon as a full-fledged pastor on January 3, 1982. I preached to the best of my ability and God surely helped me and the people kindly encouraged me and I was done in 19 minutes. We had lunch and I was back for the 6:00 evening service to preach for the second time that day. I preached for 17 minutes. Neither AM or PM would qualify as a sermon, they were “religious talks” and my first day was done. I had survived. Monday morning I went into the little office in the little church that was located just a couple of blocks from the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I remember it today with total recall. I sat at my desk, Bible, legal pad, pens, my vast library of 200 or so books and a typewriter, a Smith-Corona selectronic, I had used it all through college. I paid $102 dollars for it in 1974, a lot of money for a college freshman. This was before computers and search engines. As I sat there professionally dressed, pen in hand, reflecting on my two sermons preached the day before, I thought now what do I do? I had graduated from a fine liberal arts college and a great Theological Seminary, I had taken all the required classes and yet I was almost paralyzed with fear, how will I preach for the next several weeks and not run out of things to say?
Have you ever prepared yourself and done what you were told to do only to arrive at the point you had been dreaming of and wondered, “what have I gotten myself into?”
Here is what I learned:
1 God is gracious. He helped me and continues to help me to this day. I still am not sure what do some of the time.
2 God’s people are gracious. The people of my first church, Flour Bluff Church of the Nazarene, Corpus Christi, TX were some of the most gracious and fun people I have ever been privileged to pastor. They overlooked my mistakes and errors and foolishness and loved me and Susanne and were great encouragers. Through the magic of Facebook I still keep in touch with some of these heroes who knew we were green and loved us anyway. I will never forget the fellowship we had with those folks. I am smiling just thinking about the times we had. We were a long way from home and they were our family.
3 Preparation is road, not a destination. I have learned and unlearned a lot along the way of 30+ years of pastoral ministry. The call to preach/pastor is a call to prepare. And preparation is ongoing. Preparation involves more than preparing our mind, I have learned to pastor, you must have a prepared heart and spirit. You must spend time with God!
4 Ministry is daily. Now Sunday is the big day for pastors, no doubt about it, but pastoring is a daily calling. People get sick, have problems and there is much to do, unlike what many think, when they say “I wish I had a job where you only had to work on day a week.”
5 Fear has an upside. My fear of what to do and how to it, caused me to learn early in ministry to depend on the Lord.
6 Find a mentor. Mine was Monte Nabors, who was the pastor at Trinity Church of the Nazarene. I had many cups of coffee with this dear brother and veteran pastor. He mentored me and I had no idea that I needed it desperately and I am not sure I had even heard of the word mentor. He was a Christ like example and friend. Thankfully, I never felt isolated in my ministry. Discouraged, yes, but never like I was out there on my own.
I believe my first church paved the way for the rest of my ministry. Because I had such a positive and rewarding experience, it carried over for the rest of my pastoral ministry.
The church was closed a couple of years ago, I tried to find a picture of the building, the Baptist church that bought the building has closed as well. One thing did not close, the blessings and memories I have from my first church