I remember in elementary school serving as an altar boy. While I wasn't always keen on going to church, I did like serving—mainly so I could be up front. I made the mistake of letting my priest know that I was interested in possibly becoming a priest myself. The next thing I knew I found myself whisked off to a pastoral retreat. It was literally uh-hundred guys all dressed in black with little white collars around their necks, and then me, an awkward elementary kid, probably looking for the TV. I remember three things: they served fish, we went to mass multiple times, and there was not much talking throughout the day. Three strikes. I was not called to be a man of God.
Years later I finally began to understand that God sought a personal relationship with me. As my walk grew with Him, I found it evermore pressing to share what I was learning with others. And in His perfect will, He had given me a platform to do so: mentoring. As my flying career began to blossom, God brought into my life a small number of young men to disciple. Little did I know they were being used to re-route my future. Within a few years, I found myself—having left my career as an airline pilot—praying before the start of a church service and hearing God, again, call me to be a pastor for the next generation.
Pause. Understand this: I had left a high paying job (and was now almost broke due to the speaking business not going as planned—apparently you have to make a lot of phone calls to drum up business, and being an introvert, I'd rather eat fish and go to mass multiple times than pick up the telly). Also, I was not "formally" trained. And I had turned down a few other opportunities to be a pastor. So how in the world was I called to be a pastor? Well, I did what any true seeker of God would do: I applied to become a Florida state trooper. The agency was speeding me along through the process when God threw the metaphorical Stop Stick; I was offered a job teaching high school science and serving as the head swim coach. (Two things I wasn't "formally" qualified to do either.)
Knowing the call on my heart, I'd be lying if I said I didn't question why God had brought me to be a teacher—not a youth pastor. It was then that I understood that being a pastor has nothing to do with the title. I was called to pastor the students under my care. And as I leaned into this new role, my desire for teaching science began to dissipate as my urging to teach about God heightened. As it would turn out, my class load shifted from a science background to more personal development courses. Within just two years of entering the classroom, I was teaching religion and leadership (like a youth pastor.) Everyday I was a "pastor."
Again, God altered the course. What I could not foresee was, as I truly began to know my students and their stuggles, how my heart would become broken. I knew they needed something more than a class; they needed additional opportunities to experience the joy in knowing personally a Savior. After a long battle, EQUIP was founded. Within just a few weeks, the tiny clubhouse we met in had come alive, packed with students seeking to know God through a relevant atmosphere and loving adult leaders. It wouldn't be long before God moved Equip to First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach where I serve as an "official" pastor. Yet now I understand that being a pastor has nothing to do with a title. It has everything to do with the heart. We've all been called to be pastors, and as I discovered, and as you may have heard in the past, "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."