That’s how long I’ve been doing this whole ‘pastor’ thing… the longest I have done anything for. It actually even sounds like a long time doesn’t it?
Before becoming a pastor I was a Phys ed teacher for 9 years. Phys Ed teaching was great – I loved my time at Kingsway and at Scarborough (my first year at Wagin was a hard year and a super sharp learning curve!) but after those 9 years I’d kinda had enough. At that time I was a part time teacher and part time youth pastor at Scarborough Baptist – both were 3 day roles and both were ‘exploding’ jobs.
If you loved your job, as I did back then then you could just keep working and working and working… and I did just that. I had a pretty high capacity for work, but my marriage didn’t have anywhere near the same capacity and Danelle and I nearly parted company on a few occasions. In 1996 I finally gave teaching away and went back to study again – this time a theology degree while I continued to work part time as a pastor.
I spent the next 7 years at Lesmurdie Baptist church in a youth pastor role for 5 years before transitioning to a senior leadership role in 2001. I never really felt like a pastor for most of my first 12 years in church leadership and it was only in that final part of my time at Lesmurdie that it dawned on me why. I had never set out to be a pastor – but to be a missionary – an overseas missionary in the Philippines. It was just that things didn’t quite go to plan in that venture and I ended up working in my own church with young people.
In the final two years of time at Lesmurdie my vocation as a missionary was rekindled via a prophetic message and also a rather serendipitous adventure to join the Forge crew. That ‘calling’ sparked in ways I wasn’t ready for, culminating in a sharp resignation and a new venture.
In 2003 we headed off to plant a church in Butler. I was going to be a local missionary (and hence this blog was born). I also went back to teaching at Kingsway because we needed me to get a job, but I just didn’t have the passion for it. In fact it was a terrible grind and not good for me or the school. They didn’t renew my contract and I wouldn’t have signed it if they had.
For around 6 years I led our team at Upstream as we tried to plant a church and figure out suburban mission. It was harder than I had anticipated – but that’s another story… In that era I did some work with Forge, as both state director and then national director for a spell. I also did some coaching work for the Baptist churches – spending time with youth pastors and trying to help them get focused in ministry as well a discussing the challenges it brought. Both of those roles were hugely fulfilling, although the constant need to raise funds for the Forge role often left me drained. Towards the end of our Upstream era I began a hobby business in reticulation and spent a few hours a week trying to make some money in that space. I started to really enjoy the challenge of both physical work and the problem solving required in the retic game.
With Upstream winding up we took self funded long service in 2009 and travelled around Oz for 6 months, thinking that the $250K we had invested while we were gone was going to return 40% and we would come home better off than when we left. The GFC came along and instead of making 100K we lost the lot. That was a bummer because it was borrowed money…
We came back to a new role, leading Quinns Baptist Church and it felt like a good fit. Danelle and I were the ‘senior pastors’ and ready for a new challenge. Leading a church that came ready made with 2 rival factions (unbeknownst to us) was harder than we anticipated and it took 2 years before we started to see any green shoots of hope.
In those early days I didn’t think we would last 10 years in this role. It began difficult and got harder. But then after bottoming out we turned a corner and began to establish a core of good people committed to the mission of the church in the area. From around 2012 onwards the church began to feel healthy and like it had purpose. We began to enjoy our roles – thankfully.
It was good to have my reticulation business running alongside the church as it kept me earthed in the everyday lives of a range of people – many of whom were local. That sense of missionary vocation has never once waned – a dream of seeing Australian people come to an experience of Jesus and his kingdom that transforms them and the world around them. But interestingly these days I have started to feel more like an actual pastor for the first time in 28 years. By that I mean that I have genuine deep love for the people God has put me in community with. When someone hurts I feel it. When a family leaves its painful. When someone has a win I feel the need to celebrate with them.
Maybe it’s a maturity thing – maybe it’s a longevity thing. I dunno. In the last year we planted a church again and I’m happy to call myself one of the pastors – because I am. I now intentionally and happily ‘pastor’ whereas before I used to leave it those who were more gifted and that way inclined.
As I look to the future I can feel my body wearing out – my knees and back are both fairly cactus from 10 years of hard labour – but my sense of calling to lead and plant churches is as strong as its ever been.
My hope is that with 28 years down I am about halfway in this ‘pastoring’ thing – yeah I don’t have ‘retirement plans’, and my hope is that the best is yet to come.
I never set out to be a pastor – just a phys ed teacher… But here I am – and with no regrets.