Five Heroes

Many people lately have asked me about my mentors and who has had the greatest impact on my life.  Obviously, the answer to this question is ultimately, Jesus. He has made the greatest difference in my life. He has been there when I have celebrated accomplishments and been there when I walked through the deepest valleys of my life. I am so thankful for Christ in my life. He is my hero.

Next to Jesus, the following people have made a significant impact in my life. These are my earthly heroes.

1. My Wife – Yep. She’s incredible! We’ll celebrate 10 years of marriage in January.  The best decision, next to trusting Christ, of my life was asking Brigitte to marry me. She is a constant encouragement, prayer warrior, wonderful mother and my best friend. There is no way that I would be a pastor of a church without the love and encouragement that Brigitte has given me.  We’ve experienced a lot of wonderful blessings from God together and I cannot wait to see what is next!

2. My Parents – Mark and Debbie Harrison are the best parents anyone could ask for. They always kept their relationship with Christ first and modeled putting their family above their work consistently.  My parents were involved in my life when I wanted them to be there and when they needed to be there. I watched them battle disease, endure hardship and stand for Christ. I am thankful for my mom’s prayer life. I am thankful for my dad’s passion for Christ. They both love Jesus. I am blessed to be their son.

3. Dr. Steve Gaines – Bro. Steve is my childhood pastor. My family moved to First Baptist Church, Gardendale, AL, the summer before my 8th grade school year. Bro. Steve boldly preached the Scriptures in a way that challenged the intellectual, but also engaged young and developing minds.  I am very thankful for the church I grew up in. Bro. Steve led the church to worship and expect God to do incredible things. I grew like crazy under the discipleship of my parents and Bro. Steve. As a young adult, he encouraged me in ministry and helped me learn how to serve on a church staff. He was patient with me and graciously began to mold me into the minister I am today.

4. Dr. Bruce Frank – Pastor Bruce has invested countless hours into my development as a pastor over the last 3 years. Monthly, we met for lunch and he allowed me to ask any question I had about pastoral ministry.  He taught me how to think strategically and how to lead a church with vision.  I remember having so many “ah ha” moments when meeting with Pastor Bruce. It was an honor to serve the Lord Jesus under Pastor Bruce’s leadership at Biltmore Baptist Church. I do not know how to say thank you enough for his investment in me.

5. Last, but not least, I look up to a retired football coach in the Gardendale area, Bill Hawkins. He actually coached at the rival high school to Gardendale. He retired from coaching and taught drivers education for the school board. He wore out his brake trying to teach me to drive. Coach has always been a source of encouragement to me. I always look forward to hearing “How we doing there good buddy!” every time I go home.  He has modeled true love as he has stood by his ailing wife for many years. I remember spending some time at his house in the summer as a high school student and he did his best to influence me to the most important parts of life. I listened Coach. Thanks.

These are very important heroes in my life.  In the Scriptures, we meet two men named Paul and Timothy.  The Apostle Paul is well known for many reasons, but one being that he was developing younger men to carry on the faith and be the pastors of the churches he planted.  I am so thankful to be a Timothy to these listed above.  I am also thankful for the growing opportunity to be a Paul to young ministers who are just getting started.

When You Leave a Church Staff…

I recently resigned my position as East Campus Pastor at Biltmore Baptist Church to become the Lead Pastor at Apex Baptist Church.  This decision was not made lightly because we really enjoyed the leadership God had us under and the ministry that he had entrusted to us.

So when it became obvious that God was calling my family to Apex, I desperately wanted to figure out how to leave from the church staff at Biltmore well.  I am not saying I got it all right, but I wanted to offer a couple tips that I learned along the way.

First, Know your Leader. When you work with someone day in and day out, you should learn how he responds to different situations.  You should know if you leader can handle walking through the process with you or if he will take it personally and cut you out of the loop as you walk the process. When you are considering bringing your leader in on the process, realize that timing is everything.  If he is having a rough day, rushing out the door to an important meeting, or just ready to go home, it is better to wait. I went to talk to Pastor Bruce three different times before I brought it up. It took about a week of trying to talk with him about it to find the right time.  When I did it was a good conversation.  Pastor was very gracious and kind. I realize that I was lucky enough to work for a very secure leader.  This was very important to the situation. He wanted to see me succeed.  He is a mentor to me and I was able to bring him in on the process early.  God used Pastor Bruce tremendously in my life as I walked this journey.

Second, Keep it Confidential. You will be tempted to tell your closest friends and co-workers, but it is unnecessary.  No one except your leader needs to know.  Keep him in the loop and let him decide when to bring other people into the conversation. He’s the leader. He will still be serving the church after you leave. Let him release the information in the manner and timing that he desires.  Recognition for your work will come if it comes. Its not about you leaving, but its about the ministry of the church continuing and the gospel advancing.

Third, Work Hard. You will be tempted to coast.  You will be tempted to pack it in and wait for the time to pass.  That is the last thing you should do.  It is not wise to make plans for the ministry you lead after you are gone, but you can still develop people.  Literally, work yourself out of a job. Cover every thing you do. Work to make the ministry function without you until a new leader can come replace you.  As you come down the home stretch to announcing your resignation, make sure people see others where they normally see you. It is not that you are not there, but other staff members are there with you. The hard work when leaving a ministry position is making certain you develop others around you so that your are not missed.  Don’t pack your office before your last day or during office hours. WORK HARD UNTIL THE END.

Fourth, Be a Unifier.  Focus on unity. This is not your opportunity to tell your leader everything that is done wrong at the church.  This is an opportunity to encourage and empower others who must continue to carry the baton long after your leave.  This goes for staff and lay people.  It is easy to get caught up with all the things that are not perfect at the church… Well, there is no perfect church. Keep your mouth shut and work to strengthen the unity of the body as you leave.

Again, I am certain I did not get it all right, but these are some priorities that I maintained as I stepped aside at Biltmore. Hopefully they are helpful to you…