My fourth anniversary as the pastor of Towaliga Baptist Church was on October 1 of this year. If things work out, this Sunday a few of the guys in my church will wrap me in a scroll and carry me all around the church building. You should come!
I’ve learned a lot in these four years. Most of what I have learned serves as a reminder of how little I knew in seminary, despite the fact that I thought I knew practically everything. In a lot of ways, seminary wasn’t about learning for me. What’s to learn when you already know it all? Instead, it was a place where I thought I could go to make a few connections before becoming the pastor of The First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills.
Things never worked out with The First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills and I couldn’t be happier. Instead, I landed in rural middle Georgia at a church with a name I couldn’t pronounce. I had to rethink everything I thought I knew about being missional.
For me, missional meant having a cup of coffee with the drummer from Coldplay while discussing the finer points of Reformed Theology. It meant sitting at the popular table, in Jesus name, of course.
But in the community where I pastor, there are more catfish restaurants than coffee shops. Oh, and the drummer from Coldplay doesn’t live here or, if he did, he moved away.
But Franklin does live here. And so do Reggie, Ellie, Betty, Tim, Newton, Stephen, Lee and a whole bunch of other people who allow me be their pastor. They’ve been extremely patient with me as I’ve learned what it really means to be missional.
Being missional in my town means learning how to at least carry on a conversation about hunting and it means praying with widows who are battling cancer.
Before I became a pastor, I used words like missional as code for being cool or progressive or cutting edge. Missional was about me and what I had to offer a church. Now I’m learning that missional means leading my church in moving towards the people around us, in Jesus name.
A few days ago a friend told me about an alleged Christian in our town that told him, “There will be no blacks in my heaven.” When I heard that, it reminded me that even small towns with a church on every corner need the gospel. It also reminded me of the people that I get to pastor and how missional they really are.
Some of my people grew up under segregation but now they regularly go across town to deliver food in the housing projects because a lot of kids there don’t have anything to eat when they get home from school. And they help tutor those same kids. And next month they will sit down at the same table in the community center of the Jackson Housing Authority with those same kids and their families to share a Thanksgiving meal.
Being missional means eating turkey with people different than you are.
In Jesus name, of course.