Our experience in ministry has been so amazing. Every church we served through the years experienced dramatic growth in all categories. I have often had invitations to return and pastor some of the churches again. I have returned to all, but two to lead evangelistic meetings or bible conferences. Those two churches are the two at which I stayed the least amount of time. Even those churches have members who have kept up with us through these many years.
My point here is not to boast, but to ready the reader for the shock it was to my system to come to the Austin area to pastor. In Kingsville, we were often treated like celebrities. Ministers were greatly respected there. My children were loved by hundreds of people. Imagine my shock when I had to explain to my son what a PK was. (Preacher’s kid) The term was unknown in Kingsville. He was usually called the name derisively in Georgetown. I had numerous conversations in Georgetown in which I was told how notoriously wild that preacher’s children were. One person even launched into a theory on this suggesting that a pastor’s heart of grace was too indulgent in child rearing to produce well behaved children. Shannon and I were amazed at these attitudes since our girls had been leaders in Christian work. Both were faithful witnesses and had sung in the All State Youth Choir, gone on mission trips, and served in ministries in our churches. Our son was always receiving accolades from his teachers and even the principal of his school in South Texas gave glowing accounts of his behavior and leadership potential. The girls were both in college when we came to Georgetown, but Chase was still quite young and impressionable and these new cultural realities took a toll on him.
Additionally, ministers were not particularly respected in the Austin region. A pastor of over twenty years in the area told me to be prepared for some of the rudest treatment that I had ever received in my years of ministry. It is not that I expect to be lauded and pampered, but I was not used to being told that I was stupid. After being in Georgetown less than a year, I told the chairman of the search committee that I was not used to being told that I was stupid by church members, and his unhesitating reply was “You will get used to it.” That was so encouraging. What he obviously meant was that I was not in South Texas any more. I was frequently handled in such a way as to call into question my theology, my integrity, my wisdom, my leadership, and my decision making. I had never faced this before. Many times I picked up the phone intending to call Kingsville and tell them that I had made a mistake and would come back if they would have me. God never allowed me to make that call. It was so frustrating and disorienting to be faced with a barrage of these kinds of things that I had some emotional problems to deal with for the first time since my youth. I hid them well, but they were real nonetheless. Please do not think that I am seeking to be critical or am complaining. Much of this was just a cultural reality of the Austin area. I know this now from talking with dozens of pastors in this part of the state. For me it constituted the most severe testing of my call in the forty years that I have served. I have been asked on four occasions to serve our denomination in the area of evangelism as a full time worker. All four of those invitations have come during my years in Georgetown. At one of my lowest points, I called a man who was trying to recruit me for a position and told him that I was ready. He paused on the phone and said, “I filled that position yesterday!” I then determined that I would just resign as pastor of Crestview. My wonderful wife, Shannon, told me that I could not do so. She told me that there were many people there who loved and supported me and that I could not throw away the many years we had served and start over. I knew she was right so I took a two week break and returned to Crestview. That return was the turning point. From that time on we began to make great progress. We had some short term adjustments, but experienced great growth through evangelism and outreach. The wounds were deep and took years to heal, but they have healed. God used the pain to fulfill his purpose in my life, and in the life of Crestview Baptist Church.
One leader who had been particularly critical of me apologized to me for the things he had said about me to others. He asked me to forgive him. I was honestly able to answer that I had already done so. He is now with the Lord and so I will not embarrass him by telling this. He explained his actions by saying that he had been taking it out on me that my predecessor had been pushed out. I could not help but wonder if that was not part of all the other attacks that I had been facing. Satan will use some amazing things to get God’s people to behave in ways that are simply not Christian. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, and against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) I have not accepted the invitations to enter denominational service because I know that God has called me to pastor and to make disciples through a local church. I simply could not give up even though I wanted to at times. The one weak moment when I tried to give up God slammed the door in my face. He is so amazingly wonderful!
I can honestly say that I hold no hard feelings whatsoever toward any who made those early years so difficult.