As I look back over my ministry of nearly thirty years, I am reminded of some painful lessons I learned along the way. Although I’ve never received combat pay in the ministry, I’ve been in situations where warfare was a fairly accurate description of what was going on.
As I’ve accessed the memory files of my mind, I am more convinced than ever that in those very moments of total frustration God proved Himself to be faithful. The classic hymn, ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’ is one of my favorites. Only in the battle, or in times of trial can we fully appreciate God’s faithfulness. The very word victory indicates a battle or conflict. As a naive young minister, I hoped (or dreamed) that serving God in the ministry would somehow exempt me from problems.
In the early days, as a Student Minister, I could whip out a sermon on Daniel in the lion’s den, or talk about the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. Yet, I didn’t want God to put me to the test. In looking through my College and Seminary schedules, I never had a class on dealing with trouble makers in the church, power brokers in the board, problems at home, or adversity in the ministry. Although I learned how to preach, teach and plan a church calendar, I missed something I would desperately need in the real world of ministry.
You will encounter buffeting and battles. When I first encountered opposition, I needed someone to tell me, “That’s life, deal with it.” I wanted to whine, complain, and negotiate with God. Like Jeremiah, I felt the Lord had deceived me. I now realize, my heavenly Father used those situations to deal with things in me that did not look like Jesus. It was painful. It hurt. I didn’t like it.
However, I must go on record as saying, all that God taught me in the wilderness, the furnace and on the anvil has worked to my good. I am a better minister, father, husband and man. Although I would never vote to go through these experiences, I’ve found God to be continually using those experiences. The Lord continually puts people in my path who are going through similar situations. My trials are a part of my testimony of God’s faithfulness.
We all love to sing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” We crank up the volume when we sing, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years . . . ” But have you noticed that verse three comes before verse four. Remember the third verse? “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come . . . ” Oh, what we would give to skip verse three. Life is not an order of service where we pick and choose what we want to sing. The reality is, dangers, toils and snares will either make you bitter or better. If you allow them to make you better, you can be a blessing to someone else along the road of life. There is a ministry on the other side of our adversity.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.