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For more than 22 years I served in secondary ministry roles in Southern Baptist churches. The first 13 years were served in bi-vocational ministry. The last nine years were served in full-time ministry at a church that will always have a special place of honor in my memory.

I have recently transitioned to become the Senior Pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Guthrie, Okla. One of the questions people have asked me since taking on this new opportunity is, “How is your new role different then what you previously experienced in ministry?”

I would like to share just a couple of observations that I have come to realize in the first few weeks of serving as a Senior Pastor.

Lesson 1: I am NOT the first to shepherd this church, and I will not be the last.

  • I need to honor the history of this church as well as the ministries of those shepherds who have served before me.
  • One of the biggest blessings that helped prepare me for entering into this new role was the gift of a written history of the church provided for me prior to starting at First Southern. This is an historical document – a written recounting of highlights of the past 125 years of this church’s existence. It is humbling to see how God has used men in the past to lead this church to where it is in the present. It has also helped me gain an acute awareness that my tenure here is temporary. By God’s grace, I hope to make the best use of this moment in time – however long the Lord of the Church allows me to serve in this place!

Lesson 2: I have come to realize that the authority I have is a granted authority – a gift.

  • It is not only a gift from the Lord for the specific purpose of leading His people by His word and Spirit for His purpose and pleasure, but …
  • It is also a gift granted by the decisive choice of God’s people. It reminds me of Joshua when he took over the leadership of the people of God after Moses’ ministry of 40 years. The people of God tell Joshua that they will follow him, insofar as he follows God and stays true to the Word.
  • I realize that the authority to lead in this church at this point in time is a great privilege – a gift from God and a gift from God’s people. This is a stewardship I do not take lightly. This is also not a right that I demand! Rather, I receive it humbly and ask Jesus to walk with me and to lead through me.
  • How does lesson two impact my sermon preparation and delivery, for example? I ask the Lord of the Church what it is that He would say if He were personally standing before His Bride that meets at First Southern. My weekly ongoing prayer goes something like this, “What are the messages You want me to deliver this week, Dear Lord Jesus?” Then, I ask Jesus to stand with me – right beside me – and deliver His message through the proclamation of His Word.
  • It is a granted authority. This is not my church. This is the Lord’s church, and I am His chosen (very weak and undeserving) vessel to serve under His authority and under the authority given to me by the church in which I serve.

Well, these are just a couple of the lessons I’ve learned so far. I’m sure there will be many more to come.  All glory to God for His grace! Please pray for me and for God’s glory to be on display at First Southern Baptist Church.