In January I had the honor of being installed as the new lead pastor of Genesis Church. We had a wonderful, celebratory weekend that included a banquet and a transition service. It was an emotional time, celebrating all my father and mother had accomplished during their time as pastors over the years.
At the installation service that was led by Kenn Gill of The Ripple Network (Calgary, Alberta), the overwhelming magnitude of what was happening suddenly caught up to me as I stood before our wonderful congregation as the new lead pastor. The moment my father presented me with my grandfather’s pocket watch as an installation gift, I broke down and began to cry as though 27 years of preparation had led up to this very moment. I was immediately taken back to when I was six years old and I would sneak into my parents’ closet to try and find hidden Christmas presents, and I once stumbled upon this gold pocket watch. I was so intrigued by it and used to hold it in my hand just admiring it. My father always told me that one day that watch would be given to me and I would have the responsibility of passing it on to one of my children.
I remember one time as a child I had the sudden urge to steal the watch, and I decided that I did not want to wait until my father passed away in order to receive this gift. As I was planning my theft, I heard a voice rush through my mind with such clarity: “It’s not yours. Wait patiently.” Little did I know, that statement prepared me for a time much later in life when I would need to be reminded about the process God uses to establish His purpose in our lives and our responsibility to honor and wait patiently for His divine timing.
Fast forward 23 years where I am now an associate pastor for my dad and have worked alongside him for 10 years. I’ve served faithfully in youth ministry, worship leading, college ministry, and now as an associate. My father and I were out to lunch one afternoon and he said to me, “You know Tim, there is a high probability that you will take over as lead pastor one day here at Genesis Church.” I remember the wonderful feeling of affirmation I felt in that moment and it began in me a journey of actually seeing myself as being a lead pastor. I began to diligently study leadership, theology, church structure and governance, preaching and teaching. These subjects became passions of mine as I began preparing myself for the opportunity of a lead pastor role.
Soon after that conversation, my father decided to take a short sabbatical for two months during the summer and he left me in charge of leading the church. I was ecstatic about this opportunity. Not only would I be preaching every Sunday but I would also run board meetings and staff meetings, and I could begin to implement many of the things I had been studying. To a young man who has always enjoyed sports and loved the opportunity to play in big moments, this was my time to shine.
Looking back on my mindset now, my heart is grieved over the pride and arrogance that filled my heart. By God’s grace, the two months went very well. Though it was the summer months and our church is in a college town, we experienced little spurts of growth. There was new life and vibrancy in the worship, preaching, and ministry times. The board and staff meetings went well, and I was becoming more and more convinced that I was now ready to take over as lead pastor. I assumed that my father would come home from sabbatical and observe how well everything had gone and he would begin the transition period of leadership to be handed over to me.
I still remember the first meeting we had when he came home. I was so excited to report all that had happened and to hear his response. My father was very pleased with how I had handled the leadership. He affirmed me in many ways and expressed how proud he was, but then came the big blow: “I think we can look at possibly transitioning the leadership in about three to five years.”
“What? Was he serious? Three to five years?” I thought. (That’s like an eternity in the want it now culture we live in). “Had I not proven myself? Could he not see how well things were going under my leadership?” I continued. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it is where my heart was at that time. Pride had hardened my heart to believe that successful ministry was about how talented I was in the pulpit and how much knowledge I had obtained through diligent study. I had forgotten that it was sheer grace (by both God and my father) that had allowed me this opportunity to grow in leadership. I had forgotten that Jesus modeled for us what it means to be a good shepherd, and it has more to do with servant leadership and compassion for people than it ever has to do with talent and charisma.
After that conversation, I went into a time of frustration and, honestly, slight depression. There is a whole other writing that I will one day commit to sharing openly about that dark season. Right now, I will just say that it was a two year journey of being humbled and broken, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in my life the process of sanctification to ultimately prepare me for when I would take over as lead pastor. In Psalm 51:17 the Psalmist wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” That two year journey was one of understanding that God desires to mold us in order to conform us into the image that He desires for our lives, and He will continually break us to get us to that place. I learned that the process of being broken is often God’s grace at work in our lives. I specifically remember one time I was calling out to God in a time of prayer and angst, and I heard, “Timothy, be patient and trust Me.” It was the same message the Lord had spoken to me at six years old.
So there, in front of the congregation on Sunday morning, January 31st, 2016, my father pulled out that old pocket watch, presented it to me along with my grandmother’s Bible, and all I could do was cry and hold that watch in admiration like I did when I was a child. It felt like 27 years of God’s beautiful grace rushed over me all at once in that moment. I realized through this journey that honor is connected to patience and faithfulness, and we must continually allow ourselves to be broken by God so that He can form us into the image of His son, Jesus.
Isaiah 30:18 – “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.