Feeling grateful this morning….grateful to have been shown mercy by my Savior and grateful to be a part of the Christian tribe known as the Church of God.
- It was a Church of God bus that picked me up every Sunday morning and took this nerdy little kid to a Church of God Sunday School.
- It was on that Church of God bus that I first met the love of my life and the girl who would be the mother of my children.
- It was a Church of God pastor that taught me about faith and a Church of God evangelist who led me to a crisis experience of sanctification as a teenager.
- It was in a Church of God church that I received the Baptism in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance as a 16 year old boy, and…
- It was in a Church of God altar that I received confirmation of my calling to the pastoral ministry.
- It was in a Church of God Youth Camp that the gifts of the Spirit were nurtured and given their earliest expression in my life.
- My love and I were married in a Church of God altar by a Church of God pastor who had invested in both of our lives.
- My new bride and I found community as we began our life’s travels by seeking out Church of God congregations all over this country, and we were never disappointed.
- It was in an Orlando, Florida Church of God that a couple of 18 year old newlyweds were first accepted as and developed their identity as an old married couple and established the first of many far flung friendships that persist to this day.
- It was a Church of God congregation in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate NY that gave me my first formal ministry training over 32 years ago in the Church of God Ministerial Internship Program and in that same church where I was first credentialed as a minister in the Church of God and advanced to what is today known as the rank of Ordained Minister.
- It was those credentials that later gave me the opportunity to serve as underway worship leader on both Ballistic Missile Submarines on which I was blessed to serve, and that opened the door to my first formal Pastoral work in a Charleston, SC Church of God congregation.
- It was that Church of God pastor (Rev. Furman & Jean Bryant) who validated my calling, shaped my practice of ministry, and modeled the type of leadership that still informs my walk to this day.
- It was the Church of God symbol that I saw piercing the fog of that Scottish hillside when I popped the hatch of the submarine that carried this boy from the North Georgia hills to his first overseas visit and gave me my first opportunity to minister in a foreign context (thank you Steve and Heather McLaughlin Sommers and the COG Christian Serviceman’s Center in Dunoon, Scotland).
- After nine years in the Navy, it was a small Church of God congregation that took a chance on a young Pastor with more good ideas than wisdom, and that allowed me the space to grow, serve, and humbly lead, and to advance to our terminal rank of ministry (Ordained Bishop).
- It was another Church of God congregation that stretched our faith and in whose lives we were blessed to invest a piece of our heart, and another that I am still blessed to serve that demonstrated and continues to demonstrate what it means to BE the church and not just DO church.
- It was in a Church of God Seminary that my ministry formation continued and a lifelong network of friends that challenge and sharpen my walk was formed.
- The Church of God family stood by me through the sickness and death of my teenage daughter, the sudden death of my wife, and a couple of health crises that threatened my life.
- It was through the doors opened by Church of God World Missions that a renewed ministry passion was birthed, given voice, and continues to allow me to strategically serve those whom I would have never even had the opportunity to get to know.
For the past 25 years my family has lived in Church of God parsonages, and for most of that time every bite of food and every stitch of clothes our family received has been provided by the faithfulness and generosity of Church of God laity. Over the years I have been blessed to travel the world, answer my calling, and live a life filled with God given purpose wearing the colors of this anointed tribe we call the Church of God. There are a lot of denominations in the Body of Christ, and many in my extended family are faithfully blessed in their own lanes, but for me…..I’m blessed to be a part of a worldwide family that is doing it’s part of fulfill the Great Commission….a family known as the Church of God.