Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday's Announcement - The Back Story

Associate Pastor of Worship Committee Report from FBC Keller on Vimeo.

This past Sunday morning was quite an exciting day.  After a year-long search process at FBC Keller, the Associate Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts Search Committee announced the proposed candidate....and it was ME!  Needless to say there were a lot of surprised, but thankfully, happy people at church.

Now, I know what you were thinking...I thought David wasn't a candidate...I thought he was going to teach after he finished his Ph.D.  After all, he told lots of people that.

Yes, you are correct.  That's the path that I have pursued for many years now, but God did an amazing work of clarifying my direction and clearly showed His will both to me and the search committee.  I plan to share this story next Sunday night, but I wanted to go ahead and share it now here as well.  Prepare yourselves...I'm writing a dissertation in my spare time, so I'm in the writing mood!  :)  I want to share the whole story...if for the benefit of my memory alone. 
It starts about three years ago...

After graduating from SWBTS with my Master's degree in Church Music, Lindsey and I faced a crucial decision point.  After graciously providing housing to us in our first years of marriage, the church had informed us a few years earlier that we needed to move out of the house on Lorine Street and make other housing arrangements.  Faced with the decision of whether to stay at FBC Keller and buy a home, or move on to another area of ministry, after much prayer, we felt God's calling to stay at FBC Keller and for me to pursue my Ph.D. at SWBTS.

Ph.D. Studies
For many years I have felt God's calling to serve the Church, and in keeping with the gifts and interests that God has given me, I have pursued the avenue of teaching and preparing future church musicians.   For the past 3 years I have had the blessing of pursuing my doctoral studies at SWBTS and have learned so many tremendous things.  This time has helped shape my philosophy, theology, and approach to ministry.  At the same time, I have continued to serve as the Associate Minister of Music at FBC Keller.

Beginning in the December of 2009, I pursued several teaching opportunities in colleges and universities in Texas and other states in the southern U.S.  After a time of no response, soon I was engaged in second and third interviews with several institutions.  Needless to say, Lindsey and I were both excited and filled with a bit of trepidation at the thought of moving.  By this time, we were expecting our first child and were unsure of how much life would truly change.

January 2010
In the first few weeks of January 2010, John Parker, the Worship Pastor of FBC Keller accepted a call to serve at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  While all of us were sad to lose such a great musician and faithful minister, we were excited for the ministry opportunities that God had in store for John and his family in Baton Rouge.  I immediately went to our pastor and shared with him the teaching opportunities and interviews that we were already engaged in and told him that we were going to pursue them and not be a candidate for the newly opened position at the church.

As soon as John left, many church members approached me concerning the prospects of serving in this new role and I shared with all of them the same story...that I felt God calling me into the teaching profession and that God had me at Keller to help the transition to our next Worship Pastor.  The first few months were a whirlwind as I sought to balance school and new responsibilities at work and prepare for the birth of our son.

April 18, 2010
Things changed dramatically for us on the morning of April 18, 2010.  Lindsey's water broke nearly a month early...on a Sunday morning at church no less!  Will was born later that night and it was truly an amazing experience!  It is absolutely mind-boggling to consider the many ways that our precious son has changed our lives, marriage, and spiritual walk in the 10 months that he has been with us.  Suddenly many preconceived ideas about life, careers, and ministry had a much different perspective as I was now a father.

Summer of 2010
We continued along the path to which we felt God calling us and as the summer began we had two very promising opportunities to teach at wonderful institutions in other states.  In July I traveled to one of those schools, interviewed, and was offered a faculty position in Church Music and Worship Arts.  Here it was...the type of teaching job I had worked so hard a great school...but we didn't feel God leading us in that direction and we declined the offer.  Needless to say, it was a struggle to understand but we remained hopeful because a different school was still interested.  Without giving all the details, after much promise that opportunity suddenly ended and Lindsey and I were forced into another time of prayer, conversation, and discernment.

Fall of 2010
These seeming disappointments did have a silver lining...after months of uncertainty, wondering if we were going to move in the coming weeks...we were able to take a deep breath and commit to staying in Keller for at least another year.  That was the real beginning of opening our hearts and spirits to what God was doing.  All the while, our precious son continued to grow and change us in dramatic ways.  Quite simply, we were becoming different people than we were at the beginning of the year.

I successfully completed my Qualifying Exams and began the dissertation phase of my Ph.D. studies and prepared our church for all of the worship and musical opportunities of the Christmas season.  It was at this time that God began to work in my heart and get my attention.  Several very special members of our church whom I hold in tremendous regard privately came to me and asked me to reconsider (non-search committee members for the record!).  While many at the church had done so already, these few people caught my attention with some of the words they spoke.

I wrestled inside for weeks before sharing with Lindsey...

What about the call I had felt for so long?
I've been so vocal about the direction of I'm going to change?
Will people think I'm trying to come in at the last minute?
Am I considering this just because it is the more "comfortable" option? (i.e. close to family, not having to move, wonderful church...)

All of these questions went back and forth in our minds and conversations.  I committed to a time of prayer and focused on the tasks that God had given me at the moment and resolved to let God work out the other future details.

Search Committee Process
One of the blessings of this entire process has been the wonderful Search Committee tasked with seeking God's will for the position at FBC Keller.  I can honestly say that not a single one of the members approached me to convince me to become a candidate.  I knew that they were faithfully seeking God's will and resting in God's timing...even if it meant waiting.

I firmly believe that anyone's call to ministry is a two-sided affair.   There is obviously a call from God on the individual's part (although often not in dramatic "Damascus Road" style).  There is also a recognition of this call by the local church (as in ordination and ministry service).

After months of seeking God's will, Lindsey and I felt that the next step in our journey was to share with our Pastor our struggle in seeking God's will.  The uniqueness of the situation is that FBC Keller is our home church.  Lindsey grew up in this church and I have served here for over 10 years and have lived here basically my entire adult life.  We believed that God would work through the Body of Christ to reveal His will for our lives and the church...just as He promises to work in the scriptures.

After sharing with the Keith and the search committee of our desire to covenant together in prayer concerning this opportunity, I asked the committee that we take December "off" so that I could focus on the many services of December and spend the time in prayer.  They agreed and we all spent the month seeking God's will.  I was fully prepared to come back after that month with a renewed call to the teaching ministry.  In fact..truth be told..that's what I expected to happen.

But the more I prayed and sought God's will, the more it became clear that God had been working in my life for the past 10 years to prepare me for this opportunity of ministry.  I won't go into detail, but experience after experience was brought to mind and God revealed His purposes behind them.  He also showed me that my desire to teach was His idea but that it was a manifestation of my love for the church and a desire to serve the church.  I am fully convinced that I will have that opportunity at some point in my life, but now, God was leading me to serve FBC Keller in this way at this time.

After spending a much-needed vacation over the Christmas holidays, and after seeking out counsel from our family and several incredible men of God who had no connection with our church, we felt that we should pursue this opportunity.

It's hard to describe the overwhelming sense of peace and assurance that I have had since the month of December.  The past 3 years have been filled with anxiety about the future...some was the unhealthy kind Paul warns about in Philippians 4:6...but most stemmed from my desire to get to the next stage in my ministry.  For so long I have felt like I was in preparation for something...always on the cusp.  Of course, that might stem from being in college for 15 years now!

Throughout the month of January, the committee and I met, discussed, and prayed together concerning this matter.  I can't describe how amazing it is to see God work in the lives of your fellow church members and brothers and sisters in Christ to reveal His will.  It quickly became apparent that this was the direction in which we were all led.  This has been confirmed in numerous large and small ways over the past 6 weeks.

It's been so hard to keep this quiet the past few weeks!  We have been bursting at the seams with excitement and anticipation with all of the things that we believe God will do through the Worship and Creative Arts Ministry at FBC Keller!

So...that's a long answer to a short question.  Simply put, I'm a different person than I was a year ago at this time.  Becoming a father, finishing my doctoral studies, becoming quiet before the Lord and listening, learning to hear God's call as a couple and not simply as a single person...all of these have led us to this point.

Regardless of the outcome next Sunday, it's been a blessing to see God work in our hearts.  I now truly understand the words of Deuteronomy 4:29 that I learned so many years ago as an aria from the oratorio Elijah.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and will all your soul.


Liz said...

Congratulations, David! What a wonderful opportunity to serve our LORD. It couldn't happen to a better man. I'm so proud of you and hope to see you in action some day.

Buddy said...

How wonderful it is to see God's leading in your life & the fact that you paused to listen to Him!
The announcement Sunday was wonderful news because I could sense God's direction in all of the process.
Buddy Brown