I blogged on this topic in my first blog, One Heart Ablaze, but from a different slant. I used Peter’s words, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” to talk about how we should find people to imitate in life. Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, and being under Godly leadership is the best way to imitate someone who is in Christ, while developing your own personal connection with God in Christ as well. Today however, I want to  honor Pastors, particularly the Pastors who have had and continue to shape the kind of man that I am becoming today.

Even when I was not living for Christ, I always admired Pastors. There was something regal about them, even if they themselves did not carry themselves as high and lifted up. They way that could orate and inspire a crowd, or simply motivate a person just by the way that they lived, I always noticed. I’ve had several Pastors in my lifetime, but there are a few who really stand out to me. I’d like to talk about them this morning, as it is Pastor Appreciation Month. To me, a pastor is someone who sees the potential in his or her members, and strives to push them toward the greatness that God has in store for them. A Pastor is unafraid to speak the truth in love, regardless to whether feelings are hurt or not. A Pastor is intent on building relationships and breaking down the walls that can spring up and keep us from coming together. A Pastor is not always just a Pastor. We use the term generally, but I believe that Pastors are often Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. I think depending on God’s calling and missional purpose for that Pastor, those gifting traits show up in many differing manifestations. These are just my additional add ons. I also subscribe to the qualifications listed in Timothy by Paul.

So, with that being said, here is my list.

Pastor John Chapman is first on my list. He was my father’s brother. He never Pastored in “big” church, but spent his entire life dedicated to building a thriving children’s church at Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, MS. This man was really something. He was soft spoken, but you could feel the love and intensity of his words. He saw something in me, even as a child. I’ll never understand it. He would always rub my head and say that he was anointing me. His messages in children’s church were never original. They always came from a book that he had, but they were extremely relevant. The personal way that he had with each child he met always reminded me of Jesus saying, “Bring all of the children to me, and forbid them not.” He never turned them away. He personally invested in all of us. I didn’t realize how much of an impact he had on my life until I was older and felt God calling me to ministry. That’s when it hit me. That’s why he anointed me every time he saw me. He saw this calling. Now, I can’t even think of him without some kind of tears coming to my eye. While I didn’t know him supremely well, I knew enough about him to know that God used him to play a big role in where I am, and where I am heading. I love you, Uncle JC.

Pastor Calvin Thomas taught me the joy of praise and worship. While playing organ in a church of traditionally Baptist hymns, the way that he would make even the pipes of the organ shout with praise and adoration always moved me. He sang the loudest. He played with a boisterous energy that bragged of the enormous beauty of our God. He was  always so happy, and he always spoke such warmth into me. He accepted the call to Pastor later in his life and moved away to Florida. The Spirit of God was truly upon him in ways that I can’t even explain. After I preached my first sermon, the next time that he was in town, he came and literally did an anointing ceremony in my house. It was one of the truly amazing experiences of my life. He died years ago, but left me much of his sermon materials and his personal bible that he took notes in. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to open it yet. It feels like a relic.

Pastor John R. Johnson, II was the Pastor who helped me hear God’s voice for myself. When He was the Pastor at Mt Helm, he took an interest in me, even though I was the kid whose life was not quite right. I played the role well. I can remember the day he asked me to start coming to his office to talk with him. The first session, I told him, “Before we even get started, I don’t believe that drinking alcohol is wrong.” He laughed and moved on as if I had never said anything. His life, to me, was just…special. God really stirred his heart. He would lift his hands in worship, and become so excited and energetic, but it was a child like energy. His heart was always fully engaged in loving people. His passion was evident from the beginning to the end. I accepted the call to ministry and made it public the Sunday after he had begun his new assignment with another church. Though we have lost touch, I really credit him with getting me back on track and pushing me to be more for God.

Pastors Matt and Crystal Ingle were the youth Pastors when we first moved to Missouri and attended Destiny Church. When we were getting to know them, there was always something dynamic about them, something more than youth pastorship, even though at that point they were not interested in pasturing a church. In the 5 years that we have been here, I have seen such growth in them. While they are still prone to joking and having fun, the calling of God on them has matured them. They have been the Associate Pastors of our church for about 2-2.5 years.  They are full in the Holy Spirit, and it is evident by the way that they worship and minister. And while we are all around the same age, their wisdom and the way that they carry themselves, just amazes me, and causes me to really look up to them. So, knowing that they will be leaving at some point in the future to plant their own church excites me. I can really see how beautifully they will be affecting lives for God. They compliment each other perfectly, and I am excited to see what happens for them in the future. They may not know how much of an inspiration they have been to me, but they have been monstrous!

Finally, Pastors Gene and Melody Bebee are the Lead Pastors of Destiny Church. To say that we have had long conversations, or in depth sharing over the years would not be true. But the few conversations that we have had, and watching how they carry themselves and lead a church, it is fire inducing. From say one, I have watched everything that they have done. I have watched how they relate to people, how they love on people, how they take control in crisis, how they shepherd a church while remaining faithful to the vision that God has given them. It’s been one of the greatest times of my life, being able to serve under them and alongside them. They both have a heart for worship, and over the past 5 years, I have seen them even grow deeper in that avenue as well. Pastor Gene’s messages have such love and power behind them. His vivid images really tie everything together and bring the truth of the Gospel home in a relatable way. Pastor Mel’s devotion to giving God everything in all facets, pushes us on the worship team to abandon ourselves to a God who deserves nothing less. The cool thing about this is that I can tell that God is doing even greater, deeper things in them, which means that the trickle down effect is gonne be AWESOME!!! Simply put, I can only hope that when God ordains the time for me to Pastor, that my wife and I can do justice to all that Gene and Mel have poured into us simply by watching and observing. We are blessed to have them to lead us. They are the epitome of faithfulness to a calling. That’s all we can even push for; to be faithful completely to God and to love His people.

So, these are MY Pastors. They have influenced me in ways that can not be properly expressed. I love all of them dearly and count myself blessed to have been in their midsts. And while I won’t tout this blog posting to make them see it, I do pray that God will continue to bless those who are alive with vision, and help me to never forget those who have gone to be with Him. I love you all! Happy Pastor’s Appreciation Month.

Until next time, be blessed.

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