I am currently pastor of First Baptist Church of Hyattsville Maryland. I was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC and grew up attending church regularly with my family, but dropped out of church activities as a teenager. There was a time, when I would sit in my parents’ car out in the church parking lot for 45 minutes to an hour, crouched down in the floorboard so no one would see me, just to avoid going to Sunday School. It didn’t interest me. Church didn’t interest me. I found it boring and pretentious. The fact that God grew that kid up to become a preacher is typical of the kind of wonderful irony that defines the gospel story.
During college I came to faith, under the influence of professors like Dr. Ralph C. Wood, the writings of C.S. Lewis, and my college girlfriend, Kristen, now my wife of thirteen years. I started reading Scripture seriously for the first time and was riveted by the powerful (even radical) message of love, grace, and salvation that Jesus both taught and embodied. Regardless of what I thought or felt about church, I wanted to follow that guy. Jesus led me back to church, and I’ve been there ever since.
For me, the call to become a pastor came later, however. I always thought I would serve Christ and live out my faith as a layperson. I really felt called to teach as my vocation. I loved the classical world, that’s what I studied, and that’s what I wanted to teach. But once I got into teaching Latin, I found that I didn’t have time or energy to do much else. And I wasn’t happy with that. I never wanted to be someone who just showed up on Sundays, sat in the pew, and then went home. That kind of spectator faith isn’t what Christ calls us to. I started to miss serving God and other people at church. I started wanting to do that more and more—more than anything. That’s when I really felt like God was pushing me to go to seminary.
I graduated from the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in 2004 and began pastoring churches shortly after that.
But, I still have mixed feelings about church. I believe in church—deeply. The Christian faith isn’t something that can be lived out in isolation, in the private of a den or a study or the confines of one’s own mind. Christ calls us to love—to love God with our whole selves, to love our neighbors with our whole selves, and to love our fellow followers of Jesus as He first loved us. The only place we can do that—and learn how to do that—is in community and fellowship. That’s what church is.
But church can still be a frustrating and confounding place. A lot of what goes on at church still makes me want to crouch in the floorboard because it doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus. Church should be an outpost of heaven living and working in this world. A community where we don’t sidestep hard questions or sticky issues; where we have open, honest, deep discussions about God, the Bible, and what it means to follow Jesus in the world we live in; and where we do more than ‘do church.’ In other words, my ministry is dedicated to preaching, teaching, and living a meaningful, undomesticated gospel that that kid crouching in the floorboard would have taken notice of.
When I’m not working at or on church, I enjoy being at home with his wife, Kristen and learning from our twin daughters as they explore the world as only children can. I also enjoy tennis, golf, reading, writing this blog, conversations over coffee and Indian food, NPR, travel, and all things British.