Labor Day weekend of 1993 I was invited to speak at a small Church in Urich Missouri. It was my third year of college, and I felt God leading me to become a preacher. I went into the administration building at Ozark Christian College, and they said this Church was looking for a preacher. I could go there, and if they liked me then I might be invited back for another sermon, and it could potentially be a student ministry. On Sunday morning I loaded up my car for the day and drove one hour and forty-five minutes from my dorm to Christ’s Christian Church. I was more than a half hour early for the program and was surprised to find a couple of older people there preparing for worship. The time came for the service to start and seven people were sitting in the back two rows on the left, and one older gentleman was on the right side. I asked if we should wait for everyone else to arrive and they looked around and responded by saying they were all present. We sang hymns, prayed, shared communion, and I preached. The exact text and topic of the sermon have long been forgotten, but the memory of that day remains.
By the grace of God that little Church asked me to return the next Sunday. Away from the holiday weekend and there were a few more people the second week. Again they listened to what I am sure was a sermon composed of the best stuff I had heard in chapel at college. Once more they invited me back to speak. Finally, the first week in October after worship a couple of people grabbed me and asked if I would like to come back every week. Elated and scared I said that I would be more than happy to preach for them.
Most weeks were the same for me. I woke up and drove the hour and forty-five minutes to Church arriving before anyone else. They trusted me enough to give me a key. I would go early to preach through the sermon, make sure everything was ready, then meet with people before Sunday school, help lead a lesson, and finally, we would all worship together where I would preach. The following year I would learn to plan worship and lead when needed. I taught Sunday school for adults and then teenagers. When everything was done on Sunday morning, they gave me $75, and I felt like the most blessed student in the world.
The sermons were nothing special, but they were my fledgling steps into preaching. Much of what I said was shallow, short-sighted and immature. I was 21 years old, and I spoke to people two and three times my age. During my time in that ministry, God was good. The Church added people, and soon 40 or more were coming on Sunday. We had 70 on Easter, and there was little space for any more people. By the end of my time with the Church, I was blessed to lead two young people to the Lord and baptize them into his name.
Since those days, twenty-five years have come and gone. I have served five other Churches in four states. I have preached well over a thousand sermons, taught countless lessons, and baptized around 200 people. God has been good to me every step of the way. I have made my share of mistakes, failed repeatedly, embarrassed myself and others, along with doing a few things right. God took that child I used to be and transformed me into a committed follower of Jesus who leads his people. For that, today I am thankful.