Sunday, May 02, 2010

Calling As Sign of the Kingdom

Today was a significant day in the little piece of God’s garden I’ve been given to hoe in as three churches I have served staked claim on two of its fine young ministers.

33 year old Ryon Price was called unanimously as the fifth Senior Pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Lubbock and 21 year old Ben Harrison was licensed unanimously to the ministry of the Gospel by the First Baptist Church of Brownwood.

In my spirit, it is no coincidence that the Body of Christ affirmed these two young ministers on the same Sabbath day.

When Lubbock native Ryon Price was a student at Texas Tech University, he began a conversation with me, Hardy Clemons, and others about what it means to be a pastor. That conversation grew into an authentic claim by God on Ryon’s life for pastoral ministry. He has given evidence of that call by his graduation Magna Cum Laude from Duke Divinity School in 2004, and his pastoral ministry in churches in North Carolina and Vermont from 2003 to the present.

When Ben Harrison was boy growing up in Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, he listened to the preaching of his pastors with uncanny understanding and attentiveness. He comes by his call naturally as his father, Steve Harrison, is a gifted lay Bible teacher at Trinity, and his grandmother is an ordained Episcopal priest. As one of his professors at Howard Payne University told me recently about him, “This young man doesn’t just study. He seeks and questions.”

Two years ago, I and others recommended Ryon to Second B as senior minister for that special congregation, explaining to the search team that he possessed an affinity for pastoral proclamation and ministry far beyond his age and experience. Both he and the church conducted themselves in the discernment process with patience and prudence, waiting for the Spirit to disclose a sense of divine will and purpose at the right moment. That moment came today in what numerous friends said was a Spirit-filled service as Ryon preached in view of a call and the congregation joyously confirmed that call.

Ben joined the First Baptist Church of Brownwood shortly after I began my interim ministry here last July. At that time, we began meeting on Sunday afternoons for conversation about the life and work of a pastor. This evening, Ben preached a masterful sermon—only his second preaching event ever and his very first in a Sabbath service-- from John 4 about a marginalized Samaritan woman touched by the love of Christ. Afterwards, the First Baptist Brownwood congregation spoke their response to Ben, a moving celebration of hope and promise in a precocious young servant of Christ. At the benediction, we all encompassed Ben in a circle of love, our hands outstretched and resting on him in affirmation. The venerated pastor Dr. Robert Smith led us in a prayer of dedication, the oldest minister in the congregation voicing our—and God’s-- blessing to the youngest.

In this remarkable season of change for the churches of Christ, and the accompanying stress and upheaval of that change, it is a great goodness to witness the age-old Spirit’s call on Ryon and Ben for service to the Church. Why would two bright young adults, and countless others like them, submit themselves for that peculiar, nerve-wracking service unless a Power beyond themselves so radically compelled them that they could no more resist that call than resist breath itself?

It is no less than a sign of the Kingdom of God for me.

My cup is full tonight.


James Aydelott said...

My prayer is that both these men and their ministries are richly blessed with purpose, clarity and direction.

Charlie Johnson said...

Beautiful prayer, James! It's mine too.

Dawn Darwin Weaks said...

So thankful for their yes to the call and the church's yes to them!

Yet you know what I'm going to say Charlie! Where the places for the young gifted women answering God's call to preach?

Help us to expand our horizons, beyond age, and beyond gender, O Lord!

Charlie Johnson said...

Dawn, no doubt about it: the failure of the church to allow women full and equal access to God's pulpit is the biggest scandal (among many) facing us today. I've started a small new little community group in Fort Worth based on full equality. Seems to me that that is what we will have to do: bypass the traditional ecclesial models and design and implement alternative models of Christian community marked by egalitarian values. Isn't that what the church has always, in every age, had to do?