On September 1, 2012, I will have served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Dorchester for 15 years. A lot has happened since Jeanine, Jonathan and I entered the doors of Calvary. In that time, my family has doubled in size as we welcomed Rebekah, David and Joshua and we packed moving vans twice. In the last 15 years, I have officiated a dozen or so weddings and an equal amount of funerals. Since 1997, the church has undergone two major renovation projects – we’ve replaced windows, carpets, toilets, heating systems, sinks; spackled, painted and retiled; replaced signs and furniture and built a ramp. We have experienced 780 weeks of worship where we’ve adjusted to new hymnals, new styles, new formats, new musicians and new equipment. Some programs have been tried and succeeded and others failed. All in all, it has been a great 15 years – we even appeared on MTV!!
There are many lessons that God can teach when you’ve been in the same place for a while. For one thing, I’ve begun to understand what the prophet meant when he warned the people of God not to despise the days of small things. In 15 years the church has remained about the same in numbers. People have visited and some have stayed for the week, some stayed for a season and some have stayed for good. I am sure almost everyone wants a bigger congregation with which to worship. God has determined differently for us for now, and instead of increased programs and people has blessed us with increased friendships and fellowship. He has demonstrated that strength comes not from size but from the Savior.
Another thing I’ve learned in 15 years is that the walk of the faithful is full of surprises. God works His wonders in unexpected ways. His ways and His thoughts are much higher than mine. Many things that I was sure would be successful were not, and many things that I thought would be unproductive bore lasting fruit. We’ve been witness to so much unanticipated blessing that it would be impossible for me to recount it all. We’ve seen lives change at “death metal’ concerts in the basement of the church. We’ve had community leaders stop by unannounced, kids come for VBS, women come for Bible study, and men come for fellowship. We’ve blessed and been blessed by para-church and missionary ministries in Boston and around the world. God has been faithful to us and enabled us to be faithful to Him.
I have also learned that God is never done with us. He is still working faithfully for our completion. Every time over the past 5,479 days that I have thought that perhaps these are the last days of my pastorate here, God has provided something to remind me that this is His church and He will build it in such a manner that nothing can prevail against it. Occasionally that reminder has come in the form of financial blessings, but far more often they are the spiritual ones – a commitment to follow Christ, a child’s dedication or a wayward saint finding their way home. God is good; He’s much better than I deserve. God is still working here, transforming minds and hearts to provide hope and joy to His children.
As a 31 year-old I was excited and scared to embark on a journey with God and His people as the pastor of Calvary. As a 46 year-old I recognize that I am not the same man who preached that 1st Sunday 15 years ago – hopefully I am wiser and more experienced – but I am still excited and scared about what God will continue to do here at the crest of the hill. Will I at 61 be writing about another 15 years? Let’s find out together.