Licensed & ordained pastor seeking to function as a shepherd, teacher and evangelist by building a ministry of education, edification and encouragement in a local body of believers and in the church universal.
Summary of Qualifications
- Strong leadership, mentoring, and problem solving skills
- Team-building, recruitment, development & organizational skills
- Self-Motivated, faithful and committed
- Finance & budgeting
- Computer proficient
- Functioned in the pastoral calling as a guest speaker in various church life groups, retreats, etc.
- Established Internet teaching ministry “Pulpit 2 Pavement”
- Co-Founded and functioned as on-air host for an internet radio & podcasting ministry
- Hosted a weekly live bible & theology discussion program which reached five continents, had over 350 confirmed subscribers and an estimated weekly audience of 1000+
- Created & maintained show research and notes as well as weekly email devotional for subscribed listeners.
Abba’s House at Central Baptist Church
- Served as Pastoral of Instrumental Worship
- Conducted and rehearsed the Sanctuary Orchestra; lead same in two weekly sermonette/devotions
- Assist in pastoral staff in visitation, counseling and teaching;
- Perform administration of sacraments;
- Frequent guest teacher in life groups.
- Berea Bible Institute & Seminary – D.Min. in Pastoral Theology
- Lee University – MFA in Church Music
- NYU Tisch School of the Arts – MFA in Musical Theatre Writing
- Lee University – BFA Communications (Full Minor in Religion)
Conversion Experience & Calling
Though my parents divorced when I was 7, I was fortunate that they were determined that my education, at least at the primary level, be in a Christian school. I attended Bethany Christian School under principal and pastor Al Sullivan – who pastored Bethany-Kushla Baptist Church in Kushla, Alabama before passing away in 2011 – from K4 through fifth grade. When I was five (K5), I sat on the floor as my teacher, Ms. Gray, read us the story of Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors. As we began to pray afterward I thought about how Jesus took care of Joseph all the way from the pit into prison and on to the palace. I asked Jesus to be my Lord and to always take care of me and I would try my best to serve Him.
After I entered public school in sixth grade, that promise became much harder to keep. Eventually, I began to question why I was a Christian. Specifically, I questioned why I was a Baptist. I had attended Cottage Hill Baptist church under the pastorate of Fred Wolfe virtually since I was born. He was (and still is) a wonderful preacher, but I was uncertain about many things. One day while reading the Bible I read a verse I had encountered many times, but it was on this day that it shook me to my core. I read from Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who calls me their Lord will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only the ones who obey my Father in heaven will get in. On the day of judgment many will call me their Lord. They will say, “We preached in your name, and in your name we forced out demons and worked many miracles.” But I will tell them, “I will have nothing to do with you! Get out of my sight, you evil people!”
At this point in my life, I was shy about acting in the youth musical or even just singing in the choir. These men, ostensibly, prophesied, preached, cast out demons… What hope did I have of receiving the acceptance of Jesus and, subsequently, His salvation? So, I began to research other religions and denominations. I was certain that the Bible was true. I was certain that Jesus was the Son of God and that His sacrifice purchased my atonement. So, I knew I wouldn’t go in for the Eastern religions; Islam was out, and I knew that Orthodox Judaism didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah. I was left with exploring Catholicism and then other Protestant religions.
This was, in many ways, an even more confusing time for me. Still, I learned much about the different ways that people can look at the same Bible and come up with different ideas about what it means. This was helpful in that it ignited a desire in me to understand Scripture, but I never was able to come to a place where I felt any kind of certainty with regards to my personal salvation.
Over the course of the next several years I felt a call to ministry. I wanted to not just tell people about Jesus, but I wanted to teach them what I felt like God was showing me in the Scriptures. But how could I possibly be a preacher when I had no assurance of my own salvation? Bemused, I set about living my life and trying to glorify God in it by doing what I wanted to do; following my talents and passions, but never feeling free from that call to minister.
I eventually wound up in New York to pursue a career in what has been a lifelong love: musical theatre. I attended NYU and during the course of second year, began to write a full-length musical based on the story of Salome. My collaborator and I presented the musical in a staged reading to tumultuous applause and good reviews. I had accomplished a stunning success and was on my way! Yet, when I walked out of the building after the musical’s first performance, I just felt hollow. As I walked through Greenwich Village, I could almost literally hear God whispering to me: “Ok, James. I let you do that. Are you ready to listen to me?”
While living in New York I met the woman who would become my wife, and we were married a couple of months after I graduated from NYU. A year later, as we were expecting the birth of our first child, I accepted a post as a music and humanities teacher at an all-girls boarding school. in addition to my duties as a teacher and advisor, my wife and I were to live on campus as house parents. This aspect of the job was to be an adventure I never expected. There were many students in attendance who were from a very wealthy and/or famous background, and most were used to running roughshod over their houseparents. There was one student in particular who made our lives very difficult over the course of our year.
One night, I received a knock on my office door (the office was connected to our apartment), and I was greeted by this student’s roommate. “Melissa is sick,” she told me. I ran across the hall and found her sitting on the edge of her bad having just vomited all over her floor. I ran back across the hall and told Liz to make some tea and bring some extra blankets. I grabbed the Simple Green and a roll of paper towels and headed back to Melissa’s room. “I’m so sorry I got sick,” she said. I assured her it was ok and that she should lie down. She did, and I got down on the floor and began to clean up her sick.
Before I continue, I should point out that in my entire life I have been incapable of doing this kind of activity. I get very queasy and I run from it (I’m not proud of that). But as I knelt there on the floor, it never occurred to me to not take care of her; this girl who had made our lives so intolerable for the past nine months! I know it seems like I have strayed, but here is the point: As I knelt there on the floor cleaning up the mess and trying to soothe her, I, again, could almost literally hear God say, “When I was sick, you took care of me.”
I sometimes wish it had been a Damascus Road experience. I wish I had been knocked down and blinded by God. I think it makes for a better story. But the fact is, there in that room cleaning up the disgorgement of a girl who, until that night, had hated us I was blessed by God to receive the assurance of my salvation. I let this news marinate for a few days. As the Bible says, “I pondered it in my heart.” I shared it with my wife a few days later and told her about my calling. She said, “Well, let’s go.” And we did.
I have spent the last years actively working to ready myself for a an eventual senior pastorate. In that time, I have actively pursued opportunities to function in my call as a preacher, teacher and evangelist. All praise is, of course, due to God. Only the mistakes have been mine.
Ministry Perspective & Rationale of Calling
My view of a pastoral calling is simple. That’s not to say easy to explain, but pastoring can be summed up best, in my opinion, in this way:
A pastor is not a pastor until he is a shepherd.
A shepherd leads the flock, but it’s more than just leading. The shepherd tends the flock, helping to soothe their wounds, lovingly rebuking them when they need it, loving on them just because. It is a fatherly relationship the pastor is called to build with his congregation. In doing so, he reflects and demonstrates the love of the Heavenly Father. And it is by God I have been called, and not by men. I know this because I fought a long battle with God over my calling and, in a patient display of His tender mercies and long suffering, he never let go of me once.
There are of course many other aspects to the pastoral role; preaching, teaching, organizing, vision casting, evangelism, working alongside the body to achieve Kingdom ends, but all of these fall under the umbrella of shepherd.
That is what I am. It is what, by God’s grace, I will continue to be and it is the role that I will fulfill in the Church to which God has called me.
I have mapped a plan for the church to which God will call me. You can read it here.