Email Jimmy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have the privilege of serving as Lead Pastor at Grace Church. Someone once stated, “Growing up in a small town creates a sweet haze of memory where time forever stands still.” My story begins in a small town in Eastern Kentucky.
I’m the younger of two boys. We lived within walking distance of grandparents, school, extended family and town. (It’s a metropolis of 3,000 people. Yes, it’s considered the “city.”) Everything essential to a young boy’s life was within walking distance.
Looking back with a different perspective, I can see how my family looked like a cover story for the Saturday Evening Post. My parents were loving parents. My brother and I played sports and were involved in community activities.
Dad coached many of our teams while mom was our biggest encourager. Moral behavior was expected and enforced. (The most dreadful sound for a boy is his dad’s belt being yanked through his pant loops.) I only heard that dreadful sound on two occasions, but I vividly remember them both!
My family was the stereotypical American family. What the picture fails to reveal is how far we were from God. It’s easy to equate morality with a relationship with God. Mom was a Christian, but had drifted from church long before I was born. No one else in the family had a clue about a relationship with God. I often tell people, “Mom made sure I was a faithful church attender. I never missed a Christmas or Easter service.”
There was a pivotal experience somewhere in my early elementary years. I attended Vacation Bible School with a neighbor. A bible story was told, then a teacher asked a question. Everyone was asked to bow their heads, then the loaded question came like a blast from a gun. “If you don’t want to go to hell when you die would you lift your hand?” With a 5-6 second question I was confronted with two words. The first was “hell.” The second was “death.” I didn’t know much about either word. The only thing I knew was I didn’t desire either. I took a sneak peak to see what the others were doing. (Keep in mind, I only attended church twice a year, and was very uncertain how this stuff worked.) As expected, hands shot up across the room in rapid succession. I quickly joined the others in expressing my desire to escape “death and hell.”
Lifting my hand to the “scary question” earned me a personal visit to the pastor’s office. The pastor asked me a few questions. After the questions, he thanked me for taking time to visit him. He said he would drop by soon and visit with me and my parents. True to his word, in a few days the pastor came to the house to visit. I often look back and thank God for a very wise pastor. Later, I would discover how he explained to my parents that I didn’t understand what becoming a Christ follower truly meant. He was correct. I didn’t understand what it meant to become a Christian. (I suspect the pastor met with the VBS workers about how to teach children.)
Things changed my freshmen year of high school. No longer was I unaware of my sin. A few critical things happened during this time. My mother recommitted her life to Christ. Her renewed faith led to a deep affection for the church. A few of my father’s friends became Christ followers. All of this took place while God was making me more aware of His deep love for me. Something remarkable happened on a Sunday in the winter of 1982. Mom invited us to attend church with her. Later that afternoon, mom mentioned she was going back to church that night. Dad decided we would attend with her. (I went from attending church twice a year to attending twice in one day.) The following Wednesday morning dad was getting ready for work while I was getting ready for school. Before we left for school, dad told me he had committed his life to Christ the night before. He explained he did this late in the night after everyone had gone to bed.
Dad wanted to attend the midweek bible study on Wednesday night. He was excited to share with the others his decision to become a Christ follower. When the bible study was over, the local mailman approached me and began talking to me. As we talked, he kindly asked me if I understood how I could become a Christian. He then shared some verses from the bible that clearly explained how I could have a relationship with God. That evening I too became a Christ follower.
During my freshmen year of college I sensed a call to ministry. I pastored a church in Pineville, Ky. while attending college. The church had a van, but I wasn’t old enough to drive the van during the first year as their pastor. (I still laugh when I think about it!) After graduating college, I attended seminary in Louisville, Ky. I’ve also served churches in Vine Grove, Kentucky and Barbourville, Kentucky.
People frequently perceive pastors to be people who never deal with failure or major problems. Being a pastor doesn’t mean perfection or the absence of failure. In 1998, I went through a divorce. First, let me say it wasn't anything I ever expected or desired. Nevertheless, it happened. The divorce left me coping with many emotions. Fear, guilt, embarrassment, sadness and a sense of not belonging pervaded my life.
God's grace has exceeded my wildest imaginations. Robin and I have been married now for 13 years. (I frequently refer to her as the rainbow after the storm.) Robin and I don't have any biological children. I do have two children from my previous marriage. Kelli is 24 and Austin is 20. (That really makes me feel old!) They both reside in Bowling Green, Kentucky. You will see them around Grace Church.