It was 5:30pm on the evening of Wednesday, January 21, 2004. This was the first Wednesday night in years Elicia and I were not going to church. Instead of fellowshipping with the saints we were preparing for an all-out battle with fear itself. For dinner we ate Hamburger Helper, Pillsbury Crescent rolls, Kool-Aid and was topped off with Humble pie for dessert. Our conversation drug out for hours often with repeated rhetorical questions and awkward pauses.
At this point we’d only been married a week shy of seven months and were expecting our first child to be born in a few months. I was 23 and Elicia was about to turn 22 the following week. Elicia was six months pregnant and a full-time student in college, all the while working a full-time job. I, on the other hand, had quit two jobs in the last month. The decision for me to quit was one we prayed through because it dealt with me leaving the ministry.
My entrance into the ministry took place when I accepted an offer from a senior pastor who said I was qualified because I was a gospel rapper who could hold the attention of the youth. His assessment of my calling, character, and competence was not evaluated through the framework of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-16, or 1 Peter 5:1-11. To be honest, I wasn’t spiritually mature enough in my walk with Christ at that time, due to the fact that I was biblically illiterate. I saw the opportunity to be a youth pastor as an open door from God because it provided me with another stream of income to help Elicia and I get an apartment after we got married six months later.
My Heart Began to Change
During my first year in ministry I began to realize I was not qualified to be anyone’s youth pastor. At that point in my walk with Christ, I had never been shown how to inductively study Scripture, prepare a sermon, or received any formal schooling/training on how to be a pastor. By Thanksgiving 2003, I couldn’t hold my conviction in, and I shared it with Elicia. I shared with her my conviction of not being qualified to serve as a pastor and admitted I didn’t know how to be discipled because no one had truly discipled me.
After I poured my heart out, Elicia comforted me and said she would support me as we would take time to pray and seek what God would have me do. Elicia and I both sensed the Lord’s call on my life to serve in ministry, yet we knew in this season I was not qualified. Within a month’s time, we sensed the Lord calling me to step down from my position as youth pastor, so I could seek out someone to disciple me as well as seek out formal training for ministry. So, in reality, I left the ministry in order to be educated and trained in the Scriptures so that my prayerful re-entry would be one that was in harmony with God’s Word.
Faith or Foolishness
Over the next month we prayed, sought counsel from the pastor who married us, and spoke with our families regarding the timing of my resignation. After I resigned, I couldn’t find work. I applied for positions everywhere and couldn’t get hired. Then the Lord blessed us by allowing me to get a call from a local steakhouse to come on board as a waiter. Gladly I took the position and kept it for a month before realizing what I was bringing home was not even a fraction of what our family needed to survive.
The decision to leave the steakhouse was one Elicia and I prayerfully came to. It was tough because I had nothing else lined up. I felt less than a man because I couldn’t provide for my wife and soon-to-be born baby girl.
So, on the night of January 21, 2004, when the mail came at 5:30pm, my last check from the steakhouse was in our box. The check’s total was $26.24. At dinner that night my wife and I cried out to God asking Him if our decision for me leaving the ministry in order to get education and training one that was on faith or was it foolishness? We had no money, no savings, the rent was due, and, sadly, no direction outside of me needing to be discipled and trained for ministry.
He Heard Our Cry
After we took time to cry out to God, we went to bed and in the echoing silence of the night, I whispered a prayer of dependence on God. I confessed to Him that I didn’t know how to be a biblical man, that I couldn’t provide for my family, that I felt like a failure because I was no longer “in ministry” and that I needed His help because without Him I would fail.
The next morning, I woke up to my phone ringing. My dad lined up a job interview for me and by God’s grace within a week I was offered a full-time job. Within a year’s time I was introduced to Google and my first search was “bible college” and found Calvary Bible College.
My correspondence with the Admissions Recruiter Mike Piburn, would soon blossom into a Paul & Timothy relationship. Elicia was led by the Lord to join me at Calvary Bible College and we earned our bachelor’s and master’s degrees together. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Day of Small Beginnings
The other night, Elicia walked into our bedroom and handed me my check from the steakhouse and said, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” Truer words have never been spoken. Elicia’s quote from Zechariah 4:10 hit me as a parallel to when God told Israel to not overlook the beginning stages of it’s rebuilding process and that God was with them. For me, as I held that check in my hand, I immediately praised God for the beginning process of His rebuilding of my heart and our marriage on January 21, 2004.