Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, May-June, 2011.
It was a difficult telephone call to receive. It was 1983 and I was graduating with my Master of Divinity from Capital Bible Seminary. I had sent my resume to various IFCA members with whom I had become somewhat familiar, asking them if they would be willing to send it to churches they knew were looking for pastors. Pastor Bob Gray from Westchester Bible Church, a former President of the IFCA, was calling. I had sent him one of my resumes. He said, “I received your resume last week and I am sorry to tell you that I cannot send it on to any churches.” I was dumb-founded. I asked him what was the problem? He said, “I can’t send it along because I believe that it is God’s will for you to come to Westchester and serve a residency here for three years.” I was immediately relieved and amused!
But my immediate attitude was “Thanks, but no thanks!” I had already served in a variety of internships: at Limerick Chapel, I had served for three consecutive summers; at Bob Jones University, I served an internship with Dr. Tony Miller in a church plant at Clemson University; at Capital Bible Seminary, I had served as an intern to Pastor Sam Martz in the church plant at New Carrollton Bible Church. I had grown up in a pastor’s home and thought that I had had enough “mentoring.”
I thanked him, but told him that I felt called to preach and that I was looking for my own pulpit ministry. He asked me to at least pray about it. I half-heartedly told him that I would. As soon as I hung up with him, I called my father who hesitated not and declared, “Do it!” I said, “But Dad…” and he interrupted and said, “You won’t regret it.”
It was such a powerful time in my life, that as soon as I finished my residency with Pastor Gray, and took the ministry at Byron Center Bible Church, I purposed to begin a residency program for young men coming out of seminary. From 1986 to 1998, I prepared myself to serve as a mentor to young men who would be able to come and serve with me. During those twelve years, there were four areas of priority that I sought to develop at the church: personal maturity, leadership vision, congregational maturity, and financial support.