Twenty-two years ago today, the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church of Los Angeles took a chance on a seventeen-year-old boy preacher.
It was a Monday night. November 5, 1990. It was about eighteen months after the former pastor, my father, died. The church gathered to select its third pastor.
For the record, the church did not meet that night with to select a high-schooler as its new pastor. I was not on the agenda that night.
After a yearlong search, the pulpit committee presented three names for the church to consider. (I was not one of them.) And they would recommend one of the three to the church.
The committee was so sure the congregation would select their recommendation that they instructed the moderator, Dr. E.V. Hill, to take nominations from the floor. I was nominated, along with several others. (The was audible laughter when my name was offered.)
Anticipating this meeting for months, I did not plan to attend. I even made alternative plans to make sure I would be preoccupied. But I changed my mind in the last-minute. I wanted to see what happened firsthand. And I wanted to vote for the man who would be my next preacher. I planned on voting for the one I would most want to listen to preach each week.
During the meeting, I was not allowed to vote. The voting age was 18.
So I sat back and watched. And I could not help but notice that most of the people were writing names on the pre-printed ballots. After the votes were counted, I handedly won over the other five candidates. However, the bylaws stipulated that the pastor had to be elected by 75% of those in attendance.
So they voted again. This time, there were just two names. Me and the committee’s recommendation. I handedly won again.
Let me be clear. This is a testimony, not an endorsement. I would not recommend any congregation to make a teenager its pastor.
I had preached weekly for the past two years. And I was eager to have a permanent preaching assignment. But I was not ready for pastoral leadership. Actually, I still feel that way many weeks. Who is sufficient for these things?
Yet the congregation made this radical call and did not look back.
For almost eighteen years, the Mt. Sinai Church family loved me, nurtured me, and encouraged me in my work among them.
They refused to let me fail. They refused to let me down. When I tried to resign, they even refused to let me quit.
Mt. Sinai was not a perfect church. And it was not an easy assignment. Some of the worst days of my life were the challenges I faced as a young pastor trying to lead the congregation.
When I turned 21, a group of leaders even rose up to put me out! But the overwhelming love of the congregation suffocated every move they made. In response to every thing done to hurt me, the congregation made a definitive statement to affirm their love and support.
Four years ago, I had to stand before that congregation and announce that the Lord was sending me away to my present pastoral assignment. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Yet the congregation’s love and support and prayers never changed, even though their hearts were broken. So was mine.
I could easily write a post every day about the ways Mt. Sinai blessed my life, family, and ministry.
The Lord used these precious saints to make me a man, a Christian, a preacher, and a pastor.
Today, my heart is filled with grateful praise for the precious saints who took a chance on this young preacher.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. – Philippians 1:3