First, some background. I never wanted to be a preacher or a pastor, still not my first choice. I wanted to be a pilot, to fly in the military. I still want to fly. God’s call on one’s life is stronger than strong though; it’s absolute, ultimately, it’s irresistible. Personally, I don’t think people fight it; I think they just ignore it until they’re ready to acknowledge it. 

While I was still ignoring mine, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Jamaica. The experience of doing hands-on ministry there felt so purposeful and genuine. That was February 1993. Nine months later, I acknowledged God’s call on my life. The next four years were pulpit supply, associate pastorate, and interim pastorate. 

In February 1997, my family moved to Quitman, Arkansas to take the senior pastorate of the Howard General Baptist Church. The previous fall some of the church’s members were part of a mission trip to Honduras. They came back excited and shared the vision of Faith Home. The church pledged to raise $15,000 to build one of the children’s cottages. Although it had been a few years since my Jamaica trip, I still had a fire for missions, and since the church was already introduced to and excited about Faith Home in Honduras, I immediately began putting together a team to go there. Over the next four years, I participated in or led about a half dozen short-term (MVP) teams to Honduras. I was hooked! I participated in mission conferences around the country, got involved with other team leaders, networking, assisting in coordinating teams, and became close with our missionaries and nationals in Honduras. I still wasn’t sure if pastoring was what God called me to, perhaps it was foreign missions? I certainly enjoyed it more.

In the spring of 2000, we were putting together another team from Howard GBC and invited Steve Comfort (I think his title was MVP Coordinator) to Quitman to meet, update, and give us direction as to what kind of team was needed at that time. (We had done construction teams, Faith Home maintenance teams, VBS teams, etc.) On Saturday, Steve was in my house, and we were having lunch and visiting. He began to talk about some of the plans and dreams that were being volleyed around for the work in Honduras. Amid that, he casually mentioned the possibility of a Bible College. As quickly as He mentioned it, I felt very clearly that God was calling me to that Bible College, to lead it. 

I was confident that it would be one of the dreams that would become a reality in Honduras, and I needed to prepare myself to be part of it. I needed a seminary education. I had no education beyond high school. I shared my epiphany with my wife Paula but no one else. She was uncomfortable with it but supportive. The feeling didn’t subside with time. Instead, it intensified, along with my confidence. We resigned the church in December of that year (2000) and moved into my parents’ basement in Clarkton, MO, with the intent of getting everything setup to begin seminary the next fall.

I thought I was done pastoring. I thought God was turning a page in my life, starting a new chapter: you get the idea. Embarrassingly enough, I was rather certain of it at the time. Nevertheless, in September of 2001, God placed us at Hitts Chapel GBC in Piggott, AR, back in the pastorate. I may have taken another pastorate, but I was still convinced that God was calling me to Honduras to the Bible College. That fall, I began classes at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, AR. 

A few years after graduating, I got a call from Johnny Hibbs (Director of Missions in Central & South America). The Bible College was being built, and they were ready to start talking to candidates to head it up. He told me I was on the list of people they wanted to talk to. This was it! This was what I had been waiting for! But, there was a ‘check’ in my spirit. I wanted badly to affirm my definite interest and setup a meeting ASAP, but I found myself asking for two weeks to pray about it before going any further. He agreed. The next two weeks, I prayed and fasted and came to the conclusion that God wasn’t calling me to that after all. (It seems I wasn’t done eating humble pie.) It was a tough couple of weeks coming to that conclusion. I felt certain that God would use me in missions, but it would be here, state side, in a sending a supporting position. 

The realization was disappointing but also liberating. A bigger issue was settled for me, finally submitting myself to God’s will for my life. God had called me to the pastorate, and it was time that I surrendered fully to that! I really did love the idea of teaching and pouring into the students of the Bible College, specifically new pastors. I still had that desire. God is gracious and His ways above our own. 

In the years following, He would call a number of men to preach out of my pastorate, and I would have the great pleasure of mentoring them. He even gave me an opportunity to serve the denomination through the Barnabas project (regional pastoral care). I loved building relationships with so many pastors, especially the young ones just getting started. Truly, God wired me to support, pour into, and build up others. God also gave me another great gift. He called a missionary out of my pastorate: a great friend to Paula and me, Christina Massey. Christina serves at Faith Home, and to date, she is our denomination’s longest serving active missionary. I’m not sure I can adequately communicate my fulfillment and satisfaction getting to be Christina’s pastor during this part of her life. I’m not sure I would call myself a mentor to her, but I’m certainly very proud of her.

It’s impossible to see the future. It’s also hard to trust God for a future you can’t see coming. It’s easier to preach about faith than to exercise it. For me it’s been a work in progress.

This calling story is included in a new book by Matt Murphy and Jim Pratt, Called Out of the Cornfields. It includes many incredible stories from General Baptist pastors and missionaries. It’s now available for purchase at Amazon.