Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Standing on Their Shoulders

My friend Mark wrote an inspirational blog entry about his home church yesterday. I couldn't help but reflect on my own spiritual heritage as I read Mark's great testimony (growing up listening to R. Harris -- I'm still jealous!).

Scripture teaches us that we can learn the truth about people, or even institutions, by their fruit. I can't help but be overwhelmed at the moment considering how fortunate I am to have been hanging around the right orchards all my life. Mark is a minister. I'm a minister. It's the good, strong, solid, healthy churches that manufacture our ministers. As I survey my life, I sense that I'm the product of more than just one of these environments.

My home church in Panama City, the Jenks Avenue Church of Christ, has had a hand in producing at least 4 ministers since I was a young, adolescent member there (among them some may know David Black, Daniel Cherry, and Dannie Rio). And it is still producing ministers -- there are some encouraging young men coming up through the ranks of that youth group right now.

We were each mentored by the preaching minister there for over 35 years now: Jack Reece. He's not the most impressive orator (I believe his favorite line to deliver at lectureships is that he feels like "a mule among thoroughbreds"), but he is the preeminent example in each of our 4 lives of humble service. For me, he is the model for what I want to accomplish professionally in my life. He's partnered with God in building my home church. He converted some of his own Shepherds. By any measure, a great man. I could go on & on about Jack.

Heck, even when I was in high school, I was around a bunch of developing ministers. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a magnet high school program called International Baccalaureate at my Alma Mater, Rutherford HS. Of the 60-odd high-achieving kids (who have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, Congressional aids, FBI & NSA agents, etc.) in my graduating class, at least 4 of them are in full-time ministry today.

And then, before I went to Harding, I was a part of a vibrant campus ministry at the University of Florida that produced a lot of ministers while I was there. By my count, in just my two years in "Gators for Christ" at the University City Church of Christ, I saw that ministry produce 4 ministers and 2 Christian counselors. One of those ministers left his Ph.D. Psychology program (then ranked the #1 Clinical Psych program in the nation), which he had a full-paid scholarship for, to go study at Harding Grad to become a minister. Another already had an engineering degree from Georgia Tech -- he's now in full-time ministry. That's how much drawing power & influence that the Gospel had through that ministry.

Then I got to go spend three years at Harding University. One of my friends likes to say that we walked amongst "spiritual giants." The friendships I forged & the lessons I learned have served me and the people I minister to -- and will for years to come.

And now I'm working with the Lynn Haven Church of Christ. We're a small family of 40. But in my two and a half years there, they have grown up so much. One of the prominent members is just a couple of years older than me -- he's the manager of the largest branch of a local, popular credit union. His wife is owner of a local girls dance studio. Their mission is to grow that dance studio up large enough so that he can quit his prominent job & work full-time with our small church family. He's a minister waiting to happen.

God has placed me in fruitful environments, and allowed me to incubate in some of His greatest churches. I've been exorbitantly blessed. All I can do is just praise God.


Mark said...

III: Really enjoyed reading your post. I think we've both been reminded that even one person's example can affect so many people. I had no idea you had such strong ties to Daniel Cherry, Danny Rio, or to Matt Dabbs.

It saddens me that more of our churches are not producing ministers. I've even had conversations with a mother recently who has been actively discouraging her son from choosing ministry, even though it's what he wants to do.

I'm convinced that we should be pushing our best and our brightest toward God's service. (Not that we don't also push everyone else)

Thanks for sharing.


III said...

My Mom & Dad both strongly discouraged me from pursuing ministry -- for different reasons. If that tells us anything it tells us that we may be among the only people who encourage our young kids to pursue ministry.

djphillips.wordpress.com said...

It's amazing how influential other people are over our development. Sometimes I don't even realize their influence until years later, and I wonder if they ever know how much they influence me. I'm thankful for men who will step up and be the example for future generations.

It is sad that we don't do a better job of encouraging young men to become ministers. When I decided to major in youth ministry at Harding, I got a lot of "are you serious" faces. Some people were very encouraging though, and it really helped me want to keep going with it.

Dan said...

Oops, forgot to put "Dan" in the right place...