February is the month I first began serving the Forsythe Church of Christ as their preaching minister.
Eleven years ago my life was quite different. I had finished 16 years of ministry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It was hard to leave behind our friends. Starting to serve in a new ministry was challenging. We weren’t invited to Monroe by people we knew. There were no friends to greet us in the Forsythe Church. Everyone was a stranger. That was an odd feeling. We were treated with open arms from the first day.
Then, a few months later, an event that would change my life forever. The death of our son, John Robert, was crushing. How could we minister to anyone else when we were as broken as we could be? I don’t know what I thought at the time but as I look back I am grateful that my new church family was present at his funeral in Pascagoula and at his burial in North Mississippi. These people who barely knew us were going to great lengths to minister to us. The elders told me to take whatever time I needed. About six weeks later we returned to Monroe. Alan Robertson was preaching at Forsythe that day. The next Sunday I would bring the Word. I really can’t even tell you what I preached those first months. We were barely functioning.
Not the roaring momentum-building start to a ministry for which one might hope.
But then again, from the beginning of our time here we have been wounded healers. While I’m sure that wasn’t the ideal our church was looking for, they treated us so tenderly. I will never forget that.
In eleven years there are some things I’m glad I’m able to say. I’ve never been at odds with our elders, we have gotten along with a kindred spirit of acceptance and camaraderie. During those eleven years, four youth/family/associate ministers have been on staff with me. I hope each one knows that I loved them and loved working with them. Jason, Wyeth, Kyle, and Daniel are all very different personalities but each one
There are many faces I miss seeing in the assembly on Sundays. Some have gone on to be with the Lord. We are so happy for them, but sadness remains when we think about their absence. I can’t possibly name them all, but their faces come to mind at various times … LaRue, Willene, Mitchell, Elizabeth, Marian, Robert, Lucky … and Mike. I’ll never stop missing Mike. An incomplete list, for sure. Some have gone to be with the Lord, some have gone to be a part of other church families in town and elsewhere. And many have come our way and become a part of our hearts.
Every preacher with a conscience has some regret, some decisions that didn’t go the way he wanted, some good work he wanted to do but didn’t. I have my own share of those, and I recognize them and own them. I feel aware of my own faults and failures. I trust Christ will bring something good, even out of the rubble of my mistakes.
As I begin my twelfth year at Forsythe, I remain hopeful and energized.
*We have strong and faithful elders who are compassionate and forward looking. They are in prayer about the future of our church.
*Serving alongside Daniel is exceptionally joyful. I may have known him since he was a child, but everything about the way he thinks and serves reminds me he is a mature and devoted man of God. He has brought a revived interest in missions (and other areas) that has already blessed our church in the year he has been here.
*I view Forsythe as a BIG little church. For the number of people we have on our roll, we are involved in several community outreaches that bless a large number of people. The Gospel has ‘feet’ in our church and I’m so grateful for every person involved in loving their neighbors in the name of Christ.
It is also my hope that in the coming year(s), should the Lord see fit to keep me in service here…
-We would continue to be a praying church, but purposefully become more prayerful.
-We would continue to reach out with the Gospel, but purposefully each member of our church would become committed to reaching out in their circle of friends.
-We would continue to be a friendly, warm congregation, but purposefully work towards being a friendly, warm presence in the community outside of our church.
-We would continue to be open to God’s leading, but purposefully loosen formalistic and traditional ties and seek God’s revival fire in our individual and corporate hearts.
-We would continue to be faithful stewards of what is given, but purposefully to become forward-looking, to avoid swimming in nostalgia, and be filled with a desire to move progressively into the future in every way.
I would like Forsythe to be known as a church committed to Jesus, loving and learning the Bible, caring for and serving the hurting, and planning to be a Gospel presence in our community for decades to come.
Well, this post is quite long. Thanks if you’re still reading. Eleven years a Forsythian, I’m blessed. Maggy and I both feel blessed with our church family at Forsythe and we look forward to what this year brings.