It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here—and there’s a reason for that! Over the past three months, my family and I have been transitioning to Fort Mill, SC where I have accepted a new call to be Associate Pastor of Christ Ridge Presbyterian Church in America.
In late December of 2021, the body of Christ at Christ Ridge voted overwhelmingly to call me as their (first ever) Associate Pastor. I accepted this call, but remained as Associate Pastor of Grace Community Presbyterian Church through February 2022 in order to allow for a smooth transition for both that Church and my family as we both prepared for a new and different season of ministry. Throughout January and February we packed up and sold our home in Vidalia while buying a house in Tega Cay, SC (near Fort Mill). We also took time to tell the people we love so much ‘goodbye.’ It’s hard leaving a people and a place you love, but through a robust hope in the New Heavens and New Earth, Christ has taken care of us in this entire transition.
On March 11th, my family and I moved to the area near Christ Ridge while we wait to move into our home in Tega Cay May 2nd (long story). I began my new Associate Pastorate position at Christ Ridge on March 15th and preached my first sermon at Christ Ridge on March 20th. It’s been just over one month since we’ve moved and we’ve experienced a number of different things.
First, we’ve experienced the faithfulness of the Lord. He’s taken care of us. He’s taken care of our children. He’s taken care of our marriage. He’s supplied every need of ours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). And he’s not just taken care of us, he’s blessed us richly in Christ.
Second, we’ve experienced the fact that The Enemy hates the Lord’s Church and the Lord’s people and won’t give up assaulting them until the final return of Christ. No less than 48 hours after we had arrived in SC, a stomach virus began to sweep through our entire family and continued over the course of the next week. The after-effects of this we only just overcame last week. Not only that, but we’ve had major car trouble as well. And so many more things. It’s been a ride. It’s been ‘exciting’ (just like we were told it would be). But again, the Lord has been faithful—just like we were told He would be.
Third, we’ve experienced the loveliness of the Lord’s people. In my painful resignation letter to GCPC and my love for the Saints there, I referenced Psalm 16:3: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” Grace Community was and is a *lovely* people. And the same has proven true for the Saints at Christ Ridge. We’ve been housed. We’ve been fed. We’ve been hugged. We’ve been supported. We’ve been loved and taken care of. Indeed, I can still say with even greater affect: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
So, as we settle in here and adjust to a new (but also familiar) life here in South Carolina I plan to pick up writing again from time to time. In the meantime, please pray for us. Pray the Lord would bless our ministry here in SC as He did in GA. Pray the kids would continue to adjust well. Pray the Lord would glorify himself, and that we would enjoy Him as He does so.
Every once in a while it is good to pause and look back on life and wonder how you got to where you are now. For me, if you would have asked me ten years ago where I would be and what I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have told you that I would be an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. However, I can tell you now that God used the past ten years, and my years on the Farm especially, to prepare me for full time ministry. Here are seven things the Farm taught me about God himself and life in general that prepared me to both be a pastor and to pastor God’s people.
First, God actually works in creation. Or another way to say it would be “This is my Father’s world.” As a farmer, you can’t help but wonder how a seed not much bigger than a grain of sand somehow transforms into an edible vegetable, whether it be a head of broccoli or a Vidalia Sweet Onion, in just a few weeks or months. In fact, it’s a miracle akin to a baby being formed in its mother’s womb. It’s just amazing. It seems impossible. In it, creation screams that God is real, and that He is working. This same truth has surfaced in the ministry of the Church—as people sit under the preached word, as they grow in the knowledge of who God is and as their affections for the Lord Jesus grow sweeter and sweeter, they are resurrected from death to life, from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, from living vain and futile lives to living for the glory of The Savior. As the seed of the Word is scattered among many, some grow up and produce fruit manyfold (Matt. 13:1-9). It’s amazing. It seems impossible. Seeing it screams that God is real, and that He is working.
Second, the Farm taught me what hard work actually is. Those few years I worked on the farm part time, then full time, then part time again taught me that work is hard. Working during harvest until the wee hours of the morning or all the way through the night to get that load of onions out or to get onions in. Icing broccoli in frigid weather. Priming irrigation pumps. Fixing pivot tires in 100 degree, 100 percent humidity, South Georgia weather. All the many hundreds of different hard and not so fun things on the farm taught me what hard work actually is, and that work is sometimes very hard and very frustrating. But also rewarding. To see the crop make, or the customer happy, or the check in the mail was truly satisfying. The same goes for ministry. Some days are very hard. Some conversations are very hard. Some things are not fun. But I enjoy it even when it’s hard. Because it’s what the Lord has called me to do. Even after the hard days and the hard conversations, hard work is still truly satisfying.
Third, farming taught me hard work doesn’t guarantee success. You can throw every last penny you have into a crop and it still might not make. There are hurricanes. There are snow storms. There are hard freezes. There are hail storms. There’s too much rain. There’s not enough rain. There are bugs. There’s bacteria. There are fungi. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, the desired out-come may not come out. My grandfather modeled this truth well—he worked his whole life really hard, yet at the end, wasn’t a millionaire and wasn’t able to leave his kids all that much. Yet, he taught all of us that hard work is still worth it, even if it doesn’t yield that much money. He taught us how to work hard, which will go a lot further than any monetary inheritance ever could. The same goes for ministry. We can throw ourselves into the work of ministry—every last part of us—but that doesn’t guarantee anything. The Spirit has to work to change people. That’s a humbling lesson to learn, and it’s one the farm taught me. But it’s still worth it.
Fourth, and similar to the third, the Farm taught me just how little control I have over my external circumstances. There are a lot of things that can be controlled in farming. We have irrigation systems now. We have helpful products that get rid of the bad bugs, bacteria, and fungi. We can maintain the nutrients in our soil with fertilizer, and not deplete it. We have tractors. We have other machinery that makes our jobs more efficient and easier. God, in his common grace, has blessed the farming industry the last 100 years with good products and good machinery so that we really can feed the world (!). However, it only takes one hurricane, one windstorm, one hard freeze, one hail storm, one excessively rainy season, or a season when everyone makes a good crop so that the markets are flooded and the crop can hardly be given away. Any of these things could happen and all that input could yield zero, or even worse, loss. It’s happened more than once. I would venture to say that no other profession has less control of its yield and business plan than farming. There’s just so much that’s out of the hands of the farmer. He must rely on God to ‘give him his daily bread.’ Again, the same applies to ministry. I can’t make the people do anything. What I can—and must—do, though, is be faithful with what I can do and trust God to work as He pleases, according to “the most wise and holy counsel of His will” (WCF 3.1).
Fifth, and again related to the last one, farming taught me to trust God. Since so many things are out of the farmer’s control, he is daily faced with the fact that he can’t control everything (hardly anything, really), and therefore look to God to sustain him and take care of him. Farming cultivates trust in God. And that was a hard one to learn for me. It was hard to realize that I’m not the god of the universe. Far from it. And it was even harder to place trust for food on the table tomorrow in the hands of the Lord. But, it was a necessary lesson to learn, and one I employ daily in my ministry.
Sixth, knowing that I can’t control everything and that I must trust God, farming taught me the importance of prayer. Praying for the crop as I was planting the seeds. Praying for it as I walked through it while scouting. Praying for it when I drove by one of our fields. “Lord, make the crop, and give us a market to sell it.” “Provide the resources to make the crop in the first place.” “Help us harvest the crop that You have made.” If a farmer doesn’t pray much, it’s not because there aren’t that many opportunities. The same goes for ministry. Knowing that God feeds, preserves, saves, and cares for his people and that I cannot gives me lots of opportunities to pray. His people need Him. I need him.
Lastly, and probably the hardest lesson to learn, was the fact that the farm taught me how to appropriately give my whole self to my work. To not just have a job, but to be passionate about my job such that the work becomes a part of who I am. Each crop and each season was like a child—it needed to be cared for delicately. The life of the farm was on the line. There would be real, tangible consequences for mishaps and mistakes. If it was abused, there would be consequences later on. If it was neglected, there would be direct consequences later on. Therefore, it was necessary to throw yourself into the work. The work became a part of who I was. Now, this can be problematic if taken too far…neglect of family, neglect of the Lord, or developing a Savior complex—“I can save this thing”, or neglect of all kinds of other responsibilities, will arise if this kind of throwing of oneself is not kept in check. However, God created man to work. Working was one of the things man was created to do—to glorify God through good, hard work. I experienced that on the farm—it became part of who I was. I was a farmer. And the same goes for ministry—I think in order for a man to minister well to his people, his work has to become a part of who he is. He has to be invested. It’s not just a job and a paycheck. It’s more than that. It’s part of who I am. The farm taught me that.
Praise be to God whose providence, especially those years and days on the farm, shaped me into who and what I am now. There is much growing left, and much left to learn, but this season of life grew me and learned mea lot.