Shallowford Free Will Baptist
Saturday, November 16, 2019
For the Glory of Christ Alone
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What Is the Most Important Part of Our Church Vision?

Pastor's Page

                                                                                                                                                                                 May 21, 2019

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. ~John 13:1


               As hard as it is to type these words, it is nonetheless true – this will be my last “Pastor’s Page” entry for our website. I’m in my office staring at empty shelves and clean walls. The vestiges of the last 8 years of my life and ministry have been removed with the exception of a few essential elements (my Bible, commentaries…glasses…which I didn’t NEED 8 years ago). There is only a single page of printed paper on my closet door reminding me that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings that HE may be glorified (Is. 61:1-3). I hope and pray that there have been many occasions along the way where I’ve been faithful to do just that.

               The word that best describes my feelings of late is “reflective.” I can remember meeting the pastoral search team here at the church in July of 2011. I had no idea what to expect, no idea how to be comfortable with this pace of life. Lord, we didn’t even know which way to turn onto Canton Road. I remember driving up and seeing the immensity of the sanctuary and feeling so inadequate and intimidated about even being considered for such a task. It’s so strange to think that I’ve walked these halls so much that I can almost tell you how many steps to get to any location. My muscle memory knows exactly how to turn the lock. I know how to coordinate the light switches as well as anybody in this church (I know – OCD). I had no way of knowing just how those few men and women that I sat down with at the table that day would become some of the most significant people to me and my family. I remember eating at O’Charleys with them and their spouses afterwards, seeing the enlarging of the body of Shallowford Free Will Baptist Church around that supper table. I met Sis. Myra for the first time. She offered to shake my hand and I refused. I had just put sanitizer on my hands and didn’t want her food to taste bad; she remembered that meeting by buying me a bottle of sanitizer in a holder at Pastor Appreciation. Jara and I sat down with that group and listened to them interact, laugh, rib, and fellowship. It wasn’t long before we were just part of the gathering. We knew then, as we knew even prior to that meeting, that Shallowford was our new home.

               We left the comfort and security of our small town to come to the bustling metropolis of Marietta. We said goodbye to our families and set out for a new adventure in the Lord’s work. And we lost nothing. The folks here at Shallowford became family in absentia for us. We saw that when our U-Haul pulled up into the church parking lot that first day. We had almost single-handedly loaded that truck by ourselves before we left, but we didn’t touch a box except to push them to the back of the truck. There were so many men and women who were there with smiles to help us unload. (Ask me why I have helped so many people move in and out! It’s the Shallowford Effect.) The love and heart of the church was so evident in just those few initial occasions.

               I remember vividly going with Jeff and Karen to take Thomas to Dunkin Donuts because he was nervous about being away from us. It mattered so much to me that folks realized how important his wellbeing was to us, and made those sacrifices to reach out to him. By the time all was said and done, he’d rather be with THEM than with US…Nathanael too! Quite a few people went out of their way to include Jara in things, recognizing her unique position and struggle. We have in our windowsill in the kitchen a small picture that Sis. Lorine gave her that talked about the ministry of a pastor’s wife. I’ll never forget those small things. When we called, you good folks answered. You welcomed us into your homes and into your lives. I cherish the memory of those after church fellowship lunches. I will always be grateful for how both young and old took us into their hearts and made us feel so special and loved. I appreciate how our youth and teens recognized my obvious “coolness” in allowing me to hang out with them on occasion. I’m grateful for all of the ministry and service that this church has had for me and my family and this community over the years.

               Not everything has been easy. I was blessed to see a decline in the frequency of funerals from my previous church, but losing your people is never easy. I hadn’t been here a full month when Bro. Eddie Smith passed away. Here was a great man in the church and he was now gone before I even had a chance to get to know him. Fate would push us into the life of Sis. Lorine, and I cherish even that broken road. Marsha, Rick and Rachael, Lester and Bonnie, LaVerne, Chris, and little Rylee – no one wants to face tragedy. But the fires of those tragedies have forged a bond that I believe will stand the test of time and eternity. We’ve been through sicknesses together, through brokenness, through despair and defeat, through disappointment. People that we love and were such a significant part of our ministry here at the church have been called away to take care of loved ones. Some have sought other pathways. But those bittersweet partings are just part of the journey. I miss them; I love them; I will never forget them. But those pains have not defeated us. Those pains have not defined us, rather they have shaped and forged us together. Satan has attacked us, hit us where it hurt the most, and darn near defeated us. He has attacked individuals and home with the ferocity of a roaring lion, bent upon our destruction. But greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world. And we still persist. We still hold on to the blessed hope. And we will not give into the despair – not now, not ever!

               And, my goodness, have there been some great times too! I remember the day we announced that we were expecting Nathanael. I changed the lyrics to “Amazing Grace” on the slide show. Rick Brady saw it ahead of time in the sound room and gave me a thumbs up. You were there when we brought Nathanael home from the hospital. You shared that moment in time with us, and I’m forever grateful for that experience. I had the privilege of baptizing 14 people since I’ve been here, including my oldest son. I’ve knelt and prayed at the altar with multiple people in public and in private as they received the Lord as their Savior. I’ve had the dubious joy of being in hospitals to help, to the best of my ability, to offer encouragement and words of comfort and hope. We have shared so many moments of laughter in these last 8 years. If I could give everything I have to relive those moments all over again in my memory, I’d do it. They are so precious to me.

               These last 8 years have been the best and hardest of my life. I truly believe that measuring a pastor’s life ought to be kind of like when we measure a dog’s. For every year in the ministry we age at least 3. By that math, I’m pushing 70 now. You feel such weight in bearing everything that comes with pastoring a church. The burden of sin, the pain of betrayal, the crisis of tragedy, the relentless pressure of preparation. But it’s a joy. It is a NOBLE calling. To sit at the feet of Jesus and then break the Bread of Life for a group of believers, there isn’t much better in this world than that. I’ve loved preaching. And I will continue to love it until the day that I die. And I will do my best, in spite of my frailties, to bring glory to Him in that endeavor.

               Eight years…that’s 20% of my life, ya know it? And you don’t approach the prospect of closing that chapter without a lot of tears and pain. The only way to avoid it is never to love, and that’s just not who I am. It’s not who WE are. Changes are coming, but those changes do not have to undo the blessing of the time we have had together. We are here at the end, but we are and will be together. On the slopes of Mount Doom where the One Ring would be destroyed, Frodo speaks heartfelt words to his faithful friend: “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.” Through all the trials and tribulations, victories and defeats, they were together. And that was the greatest joy at the end. That they had loved unyieldingly to the end. I cannot help but echo Jesus’ words. The Lord had spent 3 years investing Himself into the lives of His disciples, but the time was at an end. And “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” I have loved you. I do love you. And I will love you to the end. And there is no distance or time or scenario that can change that.

               From the bottom of my breaking heart, THANK YOU for the joy and honor and privilege and blessing of being your pastor for the last 8 years. I hope I’ve blessed your life even a little along the way. You will be with me throughout the rest of my life. I love you all!

               May the Lord continue to work His good and perfect will in Shallowford Free Will Baptist Church!


~Your Pastor, Benjamin




This Week's Sermons

May 19 (AM Sermon)                                                  May 22 (WED Bible Study)
"We Are the Body of Christ"                                        Genesis 1:20-26
1 Corinthians 12:12-27