24 years ago today....I started my first day in what some call "full time ministry" as I began working at the Encourager Center for Biblical Counseling in Houston, TX at the Encourager Church.
Nothing I am about to share could have happened had I not been married to my wife Laurie who has always believed in me and has believed in what God can do through a person yielded to Him.
She is an AMAZING woman of faith.
I had been newly awarded an MA in Counseling and my awesome starting salary was $18/week (since I only had one counseling client and the Center paid me $18 per session.
What looked to many like a foolish financial decision has resulted in what for us is an amazing adventure. Faith in Jesus and obedience to His call trumps fiscal planning every time.
I estimate that at the Encourager Center I saw 450 plus people in the counseling rooms, eventually moving up to the Coordinator role in that counseling center. I was blessed to have watched over 6 counselors and 3 support staff there. I also worked for a year with The "R" Center and counseled there.
I began doing jail minister while there and became an Assistant Chaplain at the Harris County Jail in Houston where I served as a volunteer for 4 1/2 years, doing visits and conducting church services on Mondays and Fridays. I also served as a teammate for Bill Glass Ministries on evangelistic trips visiting prisons and jails all over Texas and several other states (plus Reynosa, Mexico).
We moved to North Texas and I became a hospice chaplain and served all over North Texas to the north of Fort Worth and Dallas. I did that on and off for four years and LOVED it.
It was in North Texas that we began worshiping organically in the first century style: in homes (like they did in the book of Acts before man added dedicated church buildings and organizations to the original model established by the Holy Spirit through the apostles.) On and off over the years we met like this even while participating in institutional Christian worship. We always have recognized that all those who worship in that style are our brothers and sisters too.
We had always, even in my first year as a Christian, had people to our house in Louisiana and then in Texas not just to visit but to sing songs to the Lord, break bread, pray and worship Jesus. When I met Don Gunter (who has watched over my soul as my pastor for many years now) and his wife Shari we were able to identify what we were doing as "church."
I've been counseling up here in Decatur, TX for many years now - having ministered to over 700 people in my old office and now in our brand new Counseling, Training and Resource Center.
What an amazing journey it has been!
We have friends....family now really...in St. Louis, Haysville, KS, Kansas City, MO and KS, Laval in Quebec, western Canada, Africa and South America, North Carolina.....all over the USA and have visited and spent time in the homes of many. We also have some VERY good friends in New Zealand that we met through ministering online.
Although I am not an evangelist, I've been on evangelistic trips to New Orleans, Dallas, Guyana (South America) and Sierra Leone in equatorial West Africa.
God has written two books through me (and is working on 4 more), over 100 articles that I publish on FB and email to interested parties, has preached and taught from pulpits through me and has taught many, many Bible studies through me.
When I think about all this...my mind is TRULY blown.
Lest anyone think I am bragging on myself I want to stress that I am not.
I am boasting on the Lord.
I am blessed that from my beginning as a Christian in a little church in Mandeville, LA I was taught to see that it was the Lord Jesus Who was most important in our lives and, later in Houston, that anything we did was really Him doing it.
Anyone could have a journey like Laurie and I have had. All we have to do is seek Jesus, hear His leading as best as we know how and then do it the best we know how.
And a person doesn't have to do what I did (quit his oil company job) to do it. The reality is that ALL Christians are in "full time ministry" as long as they are breathing (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
I chose a passage of Scripture as a theme soon after going into “full time ministry” and started praying a prayer based on it. The prayer went like this:
“Father God, make me foolish, weak, base, and despised.”
Why on earth would anyone pray something like that? Well, if we read the passage of Scripture you’ll get a clue as to my heart cry:
“….the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 25-29 - NASB)
My heart cry, I learned in a sermon in Houston, is to be chosen by God to do things to advance His Kingdom.
I knew by then that pride was a powerful tool that satan used to derail many Christians so I was looking for ways to present myself to God that would protect me from that if possible.
So, today I boast on the Lord for all I have seen Him do in my life.
“…by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.’” (1 Corinthians 1:39-31 – NASB)
I am thankful to Him, first and foremost, for choosing us as sons and daughters. I am thankful that He chooses us to do things in His name (not in our own….and not in the name of any organization).
I am thankful to my wife Laurie and our adult children (Erin Ernst, Seann McInerney, and Colin McInerney) for sacrificing so much so that we could accomplish much.
I am thankful to Dan Ledford for so patiently putting up with my stuff and praying with me to receive Jesus as my Lord and for baptizing me there in Mandeville, LA.
I am thankful to Don Gunter for watching over my soul and for teaching me so much through real discipleship.
I am thankful to ALL who taught me…including dozens of people whose books and tapes and cd’s have benefited me so much.
I am thankful to ALL who have received me as I taught, counseled, preached, and ministered. When you do that you allow someone else to walk in their destiny in Christ.
I am thankful to all who pray for our ministry, give financially, give material things, help us carry heavy stuff, listen when we hurt….in short…to all who partner with us to do what we are called to do.
God has brought all this to pass. So, I boast in Him this day.
I echo Job who says that it is God “Who does great things, unfathomable, and wondrous works without number.” (Job 9:10 – NASB)