appointment known. Here is a bit of my journey into the life and world of ministry.
My Personal Truth and Faith Journey
The Bible tells me, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I was raised with this truth, and many other Sunday School notions as well. We were the last family to leave church, and deeply active in all aspects of its life and ministry. While I grew up in a loving, affirming, validating family, I was profoundly insecure and shy in my teen years. In college, I met Jesus my freshman year in a life-giving, life-changing way. I discovered I had lived in “religion” but not moved into a trusting, loving, obedient “relationship.”
At this stage of my life, I was asking many questions about life, meaning and purpose. Through long conversations, loving patient friendship by other committed Christians, and lots of observations and experiences of real followers, I came to a conviction of neediness of Jesus and, as John Wesley famously said, “my heart was strangely warmed.” I yielded my life to Jesus in prayer with a friend, kneeling on the hard tile floor of Nash Hall, room 320, at 4:30 pm, Thursday afternoon. This is when I decided I would follow Jesus for the rest of my life.
As I grew in my faith relationship with God and the Holy Spirit, I came to realize that my sense of self and personal power was a direct product of my self-convictions. In the past, those had been formed by looking at MYSELF and comparing with the world. Now, I discovered that my self-convictions were intended to come as a product of embracing God’s truth for my life, and God’s truth is a fully reliable PROVISION to back up His promises. I participated in as many college-age Christian activates as I could, soaking up faith and Jesus like a sponge to water. The more I immersed my life into discipleship growth, the more I grew spiritually – in faith, hope, love and confidence.
By the end of my Senior year, I was graduating and ready to serve Christ for the rest of my life. I just didn’t know how, where or what? I did a college ministry internship the following year to place a “wool fleece” before my Lord in confirmation of a ministry direction. God brought forth a huge confirmation that year as I engaged in many out of the box adventures in growth and learning to test and see the Lord’s direction for my life. I also met my wife that year and began a ministry partnership relationship that has stayed grounded and growing since 1986! In this season of growth and theological education, God called me into full-time ordained ministry in the United Methodist church as an agent of hope, renewal and love.
My life quest now, is to discover my new name: “Whoever has ears… I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). My current name is David Parker.
My Theological Statements: I do so believe!
Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. Humanity, myself included, is fearfully and wonderfully made, is fractured, broken, bruised, and beautiful. We are beloved to our Creator. Humans are indelibly marked by sin, stained by rebellion, marred by unfaithfulness, and perpetually drawn to dystopia. Only Jesus can save us from our own evil penchants. God values the lost and longs for His estranged family. Jesus is our way-maker who paid the price for our forgiveness and restoration back into righteousness. Only as we say yes to heaven’s offer of life through Jesus Christ are we “converted” and “justified” (moved from sinner to saint, and from estranged to restored). This is our new position in God’s family. Now that we are “back home,” the Holy Spirit renovates us from the inside out, making us a “new creation.” I must (get to) spend the rest of my life partnering with God and the kingdom family (body of Christ) as we work together to change my life, the lives of others, the communities and countries we live in, and the global family we share earth and our human identity with.
I am a serious student of scripture, believing that every word proceeds from the mouth of God. I believe that scripture is the trumpet that must align our hearts to God’s moral, spiritual, prophetic vision for a just, merciful, and holy society. Prayer is to be our communal language of love, trust, and surrender to the will of God. It is the mutual language of both hearing and expressing. I believe maturing happens as we follow Jesus in a daily attempt to do two things well: To become like him in his character and to live like him in his conduct. This means radical holiness and radical hospitality. I grow as I serve, because Jesus was a servant (Mark 10:45). I grow as I forgive, because Jesus came to forgive (Matthew 9:6). I grow when I love because Jesus came to show us how to love (John 13:34). I grow as I follow and yield, because Jesus came to receive my old life so he could give me a new one (Mark 8:35).
I believe the heart of the Father is what we must all chase after. This means relating to God as our loving and just Father who calls us by name and has adopted us into His family (Galatians 4:5). It means pleasing God through our ordered life (1 Thessalonians 4:1). It means prioritizing our life around the principles and passions of His purposes as recognized in seeking first His kingdom (Matthew 6:33). It means offering our lives as instruments of righteousness, justice, joy, and peace as we partner to restore humanity and heal the world (Luke 19:10). While these three titans of triumphal belief remain (faith, hope, and love – 1 Corinthians 13:13), the best theology and life of discipleship knows this full well: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
My View of Ministry
A pastor’s primary purpose is to live as a “spiritual guide for maturing in the Christian life” (Neil Q. Hamilton). As an authentic child of God, and a fully devoted follower of Jesus, pastors are entrusted as special representatives of heaven’s hope: that the kingdom would come down to earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). We are to be prophets (truth speakers), pastors (present, attentive, caring, shepherding guides), and priests (bridge-builders, peace-makers, intermediaries, for every kind of restoration and healing). While ordained for “word, sacrament, and order” (UMC), pastors are primarily to function as teachers and spiritual leaders (Acts 6:2). This primary function can only be fulfilled in its greatest potential if pastors fulfill their heaven-appointed assignment for them to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11; Exodus 18:17-23).
Pastors (imperfect and sinful as we are) must embody the character and mission of Jesus Christ as his representative before the people. Pastors are to live lives above reproach (without charge or accusation – 1 Timothy 3). Pastors must model waiting and launching; risking and conserving; listening and witnessing; learning and changing; reflecting and sharing; hospitality and being welcomed as a stranger; generosity and grateful receiving; Spirit-fruits and personal disciplines; and an uninterrupted missional focus that does not play second fiddle to culture’s curiosities, conveniences, and lifestyle accoutrements.
Laity are the sheep. Sheep beget sheep. The laity are to bear witness to the world the good news of Jesus’ saving grace for all (Acts 1:8). The laity are to model God’s new family which have been spiritually, relationally, ethnically, racially, and geographically reconciled out of division and animosity, and brough into unity (not uniformity) and love through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22). They do this by devoting their time, talents, treasures, and testimonies to the glory of Jesus Christ. Laity are not called to build an institution. They are called to build a people; a family focused on relational life, love, and liberation from the diabolical and debilitating bondage of sin and death. The laity must engage their unique, God-given lives to serve His kingdom and bless all people. They must see themselves primarily as a “priesthood” of believers (1 Peter 2:9) who have been saved to serve, and set apart to lift up the last, lost, and least of these (Matthew 25:40).
The laity are not to watch the clergy, but to join them in embodied living out of the gospel and person of Jesus Christ. Clergy are to be like “player coaches” out on the field with the laity. Laity are to be like dressed and trained team members, out in the game and giving their very best for the team as they value and validate every other position and its role. As the leaders go, so goes the whole church. Pastors and lay officers and leaders must strive to be “united in spirit and intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2 NASB). This is our holy quest together!
I am so grateful you came to pastor at this church. I cannot speech for others but I can say you have held to biblical truth and that in itself is amazing in this time of deception and falling from God’s true word. Thank you for not deviating because of Culture