This is the second part of the stuff I wrote to Nancy & the Search Team at NewLife (then called Easton Southern Baptist) back in the spring of 2003. It does a really nice job of telling the story of my ministry... yes, I've edited it a bit.
Three months to the day from my resignation from FBC Fordyce, I went on staff at Dalewood Baptist Church in Nashville, TN, as the minister of youth. A larger church (running around 500 when we arrived), a stable pastorate (Bro. Ken had been there 10 years), following an excellent youth minister (Debbie Harned, whom Group Magazine voted Youth Leader of the Year the next year!)... we were abit gun-shy from our experience in Arkansas and we worked hard to make sure that E.G.B.O.K. (everything's gonna be OK).
As far as the youth and college ministry went, Dalewood was a dream. Debbie had trained an excellent bunch of youth workers, which I had the privilege of leading. There were a number of kids who wanted to grow deeper - and there was a history of taking God seriously, as well as a strong tradition of having fun. The best of both worlds. (A number of the very special folks first came into my life during this period. Chris Herndon was a tremendous junior high Sunday School teacher as well as a good friend. Jim Williamson was a part of our fledgling young adult Bible study group, as was Jeff Smith.)
What we didn't realize is that our pastor was in the throes of an adulterous affair with a prominent choir member. During the summer and fall of 1992, he often seemed distracted and busy, but I appreciated his "hands-off" approach to leading me, following the lists of rules & regulations I'd been forced experienced at FBC Fordyce. I interpreted his aloofness as approval.
The affair was over in the late fall, but only came to light in early 1993 when the wronged husband finally followed through on his threats to tell other leaders in the church. So, in late January, the pastor sat the staff down and revealed his affair and attempts to cover it up to us.
It was like a bomb had gone off in the church... my youth were devastated, as Bro. Ken had baptized many of them - and he was their "ultimate" picture of a Christian. We spent a number of youth nights discussing sin and forgiveness and making wise choices... and just letting kids vent some of their fears and feelings about the whole situation. I'm still proud that the youth ministry was the only group in the church not to lose numerically following the "explosion."
Other parts of the church didn't react in quite as healthy a manner. There was a contigent who believed that Ken should be "forgiven" and all of this brushed under the carpet. There was a group who wanted to string him up off the church sign as a warning to future pastors. A larger group wanted to blame the woman involved. Tremendous amounts of kingdom time & energy were wasted on speculating what happened when and what was happening now.
About this same time, Shari began the long walk through dealing with clinical depression. So, here we were, struggling with the throes of depression AND the absolute insanity of the fallout of Ken's resignation. (We as a staff got regular anonymous notes from all sides, telling us what we were doing wrong.)
Still, God was big. Shari began to heal emotionally... and the three of us left (the minister of education, the minister of music and myself) split up the pastoral responsibilities and kept going.
Obviously, the church lost a number of folks (over the next year we dropped from 500 to 400 attenders), but it was not as bad as it could have been.The interim period lasted from early 1993 until September of 1994... a VERY long time. We had two interim pastors, who both did a great job helping us struggle through a difficult time.
The church called Dr. Tim Walker as it's new pastor... with the mandate to finish the building campaign we had begun in 1992 (about the time I was hired). Even with the body blow of the adulterous affair, God had still inspired people to give over $800,000 towards a $1.2 million dollar goal.
But Tim's leadership was not everyone's cup of tea - and there was a group of folks who had been blocking this particular project for nearly 20 years. When we went ahead anyway, Tim began to develop a formidable opposition in the church.
It was during this time that I was feeling the call (late 1996) to plant the church @ hickory hollow - and Chris Herndon (now a deacon) and Bro. Tim were the first two people I approached with my vision. Their prayer and encouragement helped me keep after the vision God had given me. In the spring of 1997, I resigned from Dalewood to spend the next few months preparing to plant tc@hh.
To be continued...