I remember the evening well. I was probably twelve years old. It was a Sunday evening in a Pentecostal church. The Glory of the Lord filled the house. The pastor gave a word from the pulpit that there was a young man that God was calling into the ministry. I felt the Holy Spirit tug at my heart, “It’s you! It’s you!” Looking back on this experience, I can name at least three other young men who were part of that congregation, probably in that service, who also ended up carrying Assemblies of God ministerial credentials.
Nearly forty years have passed since that evening. At first, it appeared that my calling into ministry was one of music. In those days I poured my heart into studying the Word, prayer and preparing myself to be the best music man for God that I could be. I have to say that during my late teens I was one of, if not the most, sought after Gospel keyboardists in the tri-state (OH, KY, IN) region. I kept working and developing. I served as a keyboard player then moved into vocals, then onto being a choir director, then to a music teacher, and next a worship pastor. I had a definite talent and anointing. Church ministry was a constant. I was either participating in a volunteer capacity, as a part-time church staff member, serving full-time as a church and/or school staff member and eventually pioneering and serving as senior pastor for two congregations.
During the mid-1990’s, I was Manager of Research at the Berry Company. I specifically remember the morning I woke up, stood in front of the mirror to tie my tie (repeat those last three words quickly and see what it sounds like-sorry, Pentecostal humor) and heard the Holy Spirit speak to my spirit, “Mike, there is a world dying and going to hell. What are you going to do about it?” I wept uncontrollably, drove to work and ended up in my office with the door shut still weeping uncontrollably. That same thought kept permeating through my psyche, “Mike, there is a world dying and going to hell. What are you going to do about it?” By this time, my wife, Donna, and I had already experienced a major burnout with vocational ministry. I remember praying, “God, if this is really you and this is really what you want, then you have to change Donna’s heart, too.” And, he did. That’s a story within itself that I will share another time.
Now, I felt God had convinced me that there was a world dying and going to hell and “I” had to do something about it. So, I processed this information in the only direction I could within the context of what I had been taught…vocational church ministry. So, we quit our jobs, sold our house, loaded up the trucks and moved to Beverly…I mean to Columbus, Ohio, and we both enrolled in World Harvest Bible College. Standing in line to register, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “This isn’t right, don’t do it.” Well, I was quite aggravated, to be frank, that I had done all of this “sacrificing” to get there and said to the Lord, “Sorry, you brought me here and I am going to go to Bible school.” Classes started and I HATED it. I DESPISED it. It was one of the WORST experiences of my life. I think back on it and nearly get physically ill. We currently live literally ten minutes from World Harvest Church. To this day, I still have no desire to darken their doors. That experience taught me the penalty for disobeying what I felt the Holy Spirit was speaking into my life.
Subsequently, thirteen years of full-time vocational ministry followed beginning with a major worship pastorate, a church plant, and two senior pastorates. My wife bore most of the brunt of the financial burden while I ministered. I generally worked a part-time up to full-time job to fill in the gap. It was not easy. But, we were doing what we felt God had called us to do.
Please stay tuned for the next blog in the series, “Early Lessons”