All pastors have defining moments, critical times that alter the course of their ministries. Often we only understand these moments in retrospect. After the fact we see how they changed our lives, formed our ministries, and shaped our thinking.
Many such moments come to mind for me, but one stands out. It came early in my ministry. It taught me the importance of recognizing what I now call "the caution light."
I lead Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, a historic church in the inner city of Chicago. It's a church body with a rich legacy. In the 1960s Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at our church, and throughout the years FMBC has been a catalyst for the transformation of individuals and society. Being an inner city congregation, we deal with some tough situations. We know firsthand the difficulties of aligning dreams for the future with harsh realities of the present.
When I took the pastorate in 2000 at the age of 24, I was eager to make big changes. I succeeded our church's founding pastor, who led our church for 50 years, a man the whole community celebrates as a spiritual father. Stepping into his position, I found myself surrounded by wonderful seasoned people. Many of them were three times my age, and most of our traditions were older than all of us.
I believed I had a fresh vision to revitalize an aging church, inspire a new generation, and impact the city. But it wasn't going to be easy. I faced a host of strong personalities, dated methods, and entrenched agendas. On the other hand, a new generation brimming with energy and expectation was hopeful that I would bring change.
It was a combustible mix, a recipe for ecclesiastical disaster. Forging ahead too quickly had the potential to split the church. Even more importantly, ...