When I was just a teenager, I felt God’s call on my life. At that time I didn’t know exactly what that meant or where it would take me. All I knew was that I was called by God to be in ministry for him. As I got older, I still knew in my head that ministry is where God wanted me, but I stopped believing it in my heart. Praise God that he is bigger and more powerful than me! Through my decisions, both good and bad, God consistently brought me to the correct ministry for me at the correct time.
All throughout junior high school and high school, I was in church, studying the Bible, and learning about God. I was a good kid. I even helped with a few youth church camps during the summer. I was right on track to become a minister some day. After I graduated high school, I started college at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I spent the first two years of my college career studying business and looking for ministry opportunities around Shawnee. Unfortunately, church after church after church, there was nobody interested in bringing me on to their ministry team. Eventually, during my third year at OBU, I decided to give up on ministry. I must have misunderstood what God was calling me to in my life.
I still attended a local church. I still loved God. I still studied my Bible. But I had given up on ever being in ministry. And that crushed my spirit. Looking back now, I understand why I felt so terrible about giving up on ministry. Back in junior high, God had called me to ministry, and I had accepted that calling and committed myself to the ministry. Now I was just giving up on it. When God calls us to do something, he puts a fire in us, a passion for it. We cannot just put that fire out, even if we give up. It still burns regardless of us. That’s how it was with me, but I did my best to ignore it.
Now, had my life stayed the same at that point, I truly believe that I would have never gone into the ministry and would have been miserable my whole life. Thank God that he can do things in our lives to put us back on course.
After the first semester of my junior year at OBU, it became financially impossible for me to stay at OBU any longer. So I left the school intending to never come back to OBU or Shawnee. As you will see later, God had very, very different plans for me. I left OBU and went to live with my older brother. I got a job at a fast food restaurant and didn’t know what my plan for life was.
During this time, I felt like I was wandering in the desert spiritually. I questioned everything I believed about God and his plans for my life. I was angry at God. I blamed him for taking me away from the university I loved and the friends I loved. I was angry that he had put this fire in my heart for ministry but didn’t give me a ministry during my first two years of college. I had served God faithfully my whole life. Surely he owed me something. For three months I prayed in anger towards God. What I didn’t understand was that he was still working in me.
After those three months were over, I moved out of my brother’s house and back to Shawnee to work at a local bank. During this time, I began to trust God more and more. What I had not been able to see was that God had taken me away from OBU, where I was comfortable, to really put my faith to the test. A test by fire. A test to make me better and to increase my faith in God and his plans. While I was working at the bank, my prayers changed. I gave my life back over to God. I let him take control and was completely ready to go wherever he took me. However, I still did not believe that ministry was where God was taking me. At least not ministry in a church building.
Another three months passed after I moved back to Shawnee, and a new job opportunity opened up. At OBU, the very school I had left six months earlier, a position opened up in the school business office. I applied and got the job. If getting a better job wasn’t enough, now that I had a job at OBU I was able to go back to school and finish my degree. Obviously God had a plan for my life that I could not see. I had all but given up on ever going back to college and BAM! God guides me back onto the path to completing my degree.
Now that I was back at OBU I started to reconnect with many of my friends. Come to find out, Doug Hurt, one of my best friends from OBU, was living in the same apartment complex as me. Once we figured this out, we hung out all the time. Eventually we started playing music together just for fun. Doug on guitar and vocals, me on drums. We realized very soon that we absolutely loved playing music together and wanted to start playing in front of people. There was only one problem: A “band” made up of just a guitarist and drummer was going to be really hard to pull off. So Doug contacted a good friend of his, Ben Allred, to come jam with us. With the addition of another guitar player, we started playing some shows. We played around OBU and Shawnee quite a bit and even ventured to places like Oklahoma City and Coalgate, Oklahoma. We were a Christian band and played mostly at churches and Christian venues. Eventually we added two more members to our band, Kiah and Isaiah Lockhart, and started playing in bars and clubs. This is when God really started to work through the band and absolutely touched my heart.
God had brought me to a different kind of ministry, a ministry where we played Christian music in secular venues to reach people that would otherwise be unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have so many stories of people coming up to us, Christian and non-Christian alike, telling us how our passion for God had inspired them to seek him again. My favorite experience was after we played a show and this pierced, hardcore rocker came up and talked to me. He told me that he was agnostic and had rejected Christianity but that he was going to look back into it because of how much passion we showed for our music and our Christian beliefs. I was so happy I had to hold back tears of joy (especially since I was talking to a hardcore rocker). I knew that God was working through what we were doing and I was finally fulfilling the call God had put on my life for ministry. For about a three years, we continued to play shows and minister to people. Playing Christian music in secular venues was not the ultimate call God had on my life. Eventually the band broke up, and I was suddenly without a ministry again.
This was the second time in my life that I felt like God was taking me through a desert. I had graduated with a degree in marketing, moved from Shawnee to Oklahoma City, and had switched jobs three or four times after graduation. I made some terrible decisions about when to leave jobs and what jobs to take next. I was angry at God once again, and I did not understand why he had taken me away from a ministry that was touching and affecting people’s lives.
In Oklahoma City I was able to get two jobs. I worked full-time at a customer service call center for a mortgage company and part-time at Starbucks Coffee. The only ministry I was remotely involved in was the Sunday night contemporary worship service for a Baptist church in Shawnee. That’s right, I was living and working in Oklahoma City and playing drums for a worship service in Shawnee. It amazes me how even during this desert period of my life, God was preparing me for ministry in Shawnee. But more about that later.
Well, eventually I got sick and tired of talking to angry people about their mortgage payments going up, so I started looking for a different job. Then one Sunday night the worship leader at the contemporary service I played drums at tells me that there is a member of the church in need of a new salesman at his business. I jumped at the opportunity to get a different job, and two weeks later I started work at Extreme Inflatables in Shawnee. After about a year of commuting from Oklahoma City to Shawnee everyday, I moved back to Shawnee. Shawnee, the city which I had left and never wanted to come back to. God had brought me back to Shawnee, but I still was unsure why. I still played drums for the contemporary service, but again, that was all the “ministry” I was doing.
Then in November of 2008, Will, a good friend of mine from Starbucks, called me up. He was going through a really bad breakup and needed somebody to hang out with him. So I hung out with him for about twelve days straight. The great thing was that our friendship just came together like we were life-long friends. Sometime in December Will invited me to come to his church on a Thursday night and help him lead worship for the youth group. I went with him and immediately fell in love with the youth group at his church. I was so impressed with the youth group that I decided to visit the church for Sunday morning worship. When I walked into the church on Sunday, it just felt like coming home. I know now that God just poured his peace over me when I walked in that door as if to say, “This is where you need to be.”
I fell in love with the church and started serving as much as I could, whenever I could, wherever I could. Then about a year later the pastors asked that anybody interested in leading a Community Group come talk to them. I felt like this would be another great opportunity for me to serve. The only problem was I lived in Shawnee, so I approached the pastoral team and asked if I could host a Community Group in Shawnee at my house. The pastors nearly jumped out of their skin. Come to find out about a month earlier they felt like God had called the church to plant a new church in Shawnee. I was in shock! I had left Shawnee twice, fully intending never to return. Now I was back in Shawnee, and the church I was attending in Oklahoma City felt called to plant a church in Shawnee. All I could do was pray over and over, “God, you are so good!”
So I started hosting a Community Group at my house once a week. We grew from three people to about twenty in only four months. I kept serving but was unsure what my role for the Shawnee church plant was going to be. The pastors and I knew that God wanted me to be part of the ministry team in Shawnee, but we did not know in what capacity. Then the pastors approached me about being on the pastoral team for the Shawnee church plant. I was in shock again! After much prayer and meditation, I agreed to come on as one of the pastors for the Shawnee church plant.
So after some bad decisions and some hard decisions, God has brought me to my current ministry. We are struggling to get a building for our church plant, but we are still ministering to the community of Shawnee. It amazes me that God was guiding my steps the whole way. Had I not left OBU when I did, I would not have worked at Starbucks at the same time as Will. Had I not worked at Starbucks with Will, I would have never connected with my current church. Had I not connected with my church, I would have never been called to be a campus pastor for our Shawnee church plant. Even when I could not see the path, God was keeping me on it.
So even when you feel like you are going through a spiritual desert, remember that God is for you. He has plans for you and wants you to succeed at those plans. All you need to do is try to get your sin nature out of the way of God’s plans. But even if you are unable to do that, God is big enough and powerful enough to bring you back to his plans for your life. It is then your decision. Will you follow God’s call on your life or will you turn away once again? The good news is that God will give you multiple chances to accept following his plan for your life even if you reject him. Think about what would have happened if Jesus had just rejected Peter after Peter denied knowing him. Peter would have missed out on being a part of the day of Pentecost where thousands of people became Christians. God can use us just like he used Peter. All we need to do is trust him and listen for his direction and call on our lives.