Being raised in a military home, and then a ministry home, meant that I lived all over the US and even the world growing up. Although there were many, many blessings from the constant travel and moving, one of the greatest was the variety of churches I grew up in which heavily influenced my spiritual journey. I thought it might be appropriate to take a moment to reflect and show gratitude to congregations which impacted me greatly.
Clark Field Baptist Church – Angeles City, Philippines
My earliest memories in life are singing in the children’s choir at Clark Field Baptist Church while my dad was stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. We had the privilege of growing under two pastors, Allen Smith & John Dill, both of whom were IMB missionaries and both of whom impacted my young life greatly. To this day both men are good friends with me family and men who I still look up to as examples of Christ.
Adamsville Baptist Church – Goldsboro, NC
Moving from the Philippines to North Carolina, and being a part of the Adamsville family, only heightened my love for missions as I grew up a bit in the RA program at Adamsville. Sitting under the teaching of Pastor Al Wright is where I first experienced the Spirit of God stirring in my heart and would eventually pave the way for me to surrender my life to King Jesus.
Deer Park Baptist Church – Newport News, VA
Deer Park Baptist Church is where I finally bowed my knee to Christ. I spent my pre-teen years at Deer Park and made my first real friendships that were not only guys I enjoyed time with, but also showed me what it was like to run after Jesus. Pastor Gary Burden, his wife Frances, and their sons, Tim & Stephen, became serious friends of my family. I still remember seeing Pastor Gary in shorts one Sunday afternoon. After the shock wore off, it became the first time I realized that pastors were real people, just like me. 😉
First Baptist Church – Chipley, FL
We were not at FBC Chipley for too long, as my dad accepted his first pastorate not long after we moved to Florida, but FBC was where the Lord called me to serve in vocational ministry, while growing under the leadership of Pastor Adolf Phares and my youth pastor Lou Fortier, who is now a pastor close to me in the Kansas City area. Learning under Lou taught me what it looked like to take holiness seriously and to be a student of scripture.
Orange Hill Baptist Church – Chipley, FL
Orange Hill is probably where I grew the most. Sitting under my dad as a pastor was a new experience for me, but knowing that God was calling me into ministry, it also allowed me to experience a hands on intern-like experience. I watched and learned what it looked like to do sermon prep, hospital visitation, funerals, weddings, and door to door visitation, all beside my dad who has always been my greatest spiritual hero. Working as a bi-vocational pastor, he taught me to be faithful and love people, even when you are working yourself in the ground. All the while, he showed me what it looked like to love your family deeply. I’m still not sure how he did it.
This is also the church where our one deacon, and his wife, Howard & Sue Gilbert, hired me to work on their small farm, and for the next 5 years I learned how important it was to work hard, do a good job and appreciate the rewards of that labor. I will never be able to say thank you enough to the family at Orange Hill who helped shape me deeply.
Shiloh Baptist Church – Chipley, FL
Shiloh was the last church I was a member of before I began serving on church staff. Under the leadership of Pastor Gary Wiggins, a man I love deeply, I learned to trust in God’s sovereignty, and to rest in his leadership. This is the church that licensed me to ministry and gave me my first real ministry responsibilities, responsibilities which were unpaid but which were real, and began to teach me what it looks like to faithfully lead others in church life.
This post is probably more cathartic for me than helpful to any of you, in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if you stopped reading a long time ago. With that said, I realize that my life is not just mine, but is an amalgamation of those who I have loved like family and who have shaped me on my own journey with Jesus, and for that I wanted to take a moment and say thanks. Each of these stops along the way remind me of God’s good grace in my life, and encourage me to continue to pursue him and to love his church. Because of them, I am blessed.