From the palms to the Poconos: a moonlighter’s journey to the ministry.
For the last several years, the persistent call on my life has been to spend and be spent for Christ. I have rarely done this vocationally, only volitionally and voluntarily, as the gospel has become increasingly precious to me. This has also taken a number of varying forms throughout the years, with mostly me divvying up my time between working a job to provide for my family, involving myself in ministry leadership in some capacity, pursuing my passion for the kingdom, and being a family-oriented father and husband. This multifaceted endeavor has never been an easy one, with my passions and responsibilities being pulled in opposite directions, between what I know God has called me to do and what I know I need to do right now as I sit in the “waiting room” of pastoral ministry.
Ethan Richardson of Mockingbird recently wrote about this very dilemma with typical expertise and eloquence in the piece “Moonlighter’s Anonymous.” In it, he describes the mandatory ethical and emotional costs of making a living while “moonlighting” a passion project, the thing you really love doing or feel called to do. For roughly the last 7–8 years, I have felt this in a very tangible way. That which I was most passionate about — preaching and pastoral work — was always necessarily considered a “side hustle” as I worked a secular job to provide for my family as I waited in the wings to see how God would direct my steps (and my career). I have always known that church ministry was in my future, which is why I never quit sacrificing my time and energy to labor for the church. I always knew that what I was experiencing now — the feeling of “butter scraped over too much bread” (as Bilbo Baggins so eloquently puts it) — wouldn’t last. It was a temporary season. Merely the preamble to what God was leading me into. The preparatory school for everyday ministry.
Such is why the news I get to relay to you today is shared with exuberance and elation. Some might say I’ve buried the lede — but I say that what I’m announcing is better understood with a knowledge of what preceded it.
Consequently, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I have accepted the call to pastor Stonington Baptist Church in Paxinos, Pennsylvania. Accordingly, my family and I will be leaving the Sunshine State for the Keystone State this summer, trading the palms for the Poconos, and embarking on a brand new chapter in life and ministry as I step into the senior pastorate for this wonderful church body.
I embrace with delight the challenge and privilege of proclaiming the whole counsel of God for the sake of his glory and the good of his church. I am not naïve enough to believe that it won’t come without hardships and heartaches — such is the ministry and the life of a minister, one who is broken who has been called to assist others in their brokenness. Ministry is hard. It’s a slog. I am not unacquainted with the stresses and strains that ministry can place on a family. Growing up a pastor’s kid, I was made all too aware of the struggles that pastors and pastor’s families can endure. But I am excited to take on those stresses and hopefully speak a little grace into the mess that is ministry.
I understand what’s involved; there are days of rejoicing ahead, and there are days of mourning and grieving ahead, too. Yet I know that this is what God has called me to do. This is my purpose. He has given me a unique sense that beyond all doubt I am called to spend my life in the service of his kingdom, proclaiming his truth, and preaching his gospel, for the sake of his name. “In order to a true call to the ministry,” declares Charles Spurgeon in his Lectures to My Students, “there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling to others what God has done to our own souls.”1 Such a “raging thirst” exists within my soul.
Throughout all my days of working various jobs, the burning desire to preach has been ablaze within me. The days of strained time and bifurcated preoccupation were endured by a simple trust that someday, one day, God would lead me to shepherd his people with undivided regard. Making artisanal sandwiches, sourcing industrial chemicals, or selling commercial aviation parts (all real jobs I’ve held) — though equally viable vocations in their own right — were never the roles in which I felt fulfilled. I have known that God’s hand is upon me, and his calling is irrevocable. (Rom 11:29)
“The pulpit,” continues Spurgeon, “is never to be the ladder by which ambition is to climb.”2 Such is my aim, not to bring any attention or glory to myself (2 Cor 4:6), but rather, to herald God’s gospel of grace. My soul is fixated on being an “ambassador for Christ.” (2 Cor 5:20) My lone ambition is to bring sinners to the knowledge of Christ crucified for them. (1 Cor 2:2) To the knowledge of the sinless One who was condemned for them, so that the guilty could go free. To the knowledge of the Life that died for them, so that the dead might live. What lies before me is an incomprehensible assignment, an utterly impossible task if not for the guidance and direction of God’s Spirit. But by God’s gracious Spirit, I will live my life preaching his mercy, truth, and pardon, and be faithfully wrung out for his glory.
I trust you will keep my family and I in your prayers as we ready ourselves for this significant transition in life. Our solemn prayer is that our days would be spent impacting those around us with the grace, mercy, and peace of God’s gospel. We step out into this next chapter of life and service not assured of the end but assured of the One who is already there, and has already orchestrated it all in sovereign grace.
Thank you so much for your continued prayer and support.
Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: First Series (New York: Robert Carter & Bros., 1890), 42.