The transition from student ministry to church planting is becoming more and more real everyday. I only have 2 Sundays left as a student pastor. I started working with students back in 1999 and in 2000 became a student pastor at First Baptist Church Bellevue, NE. I wasn’t even 21 yet and I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that Jesus loved the kids of Bellevue and he wanted me to tell them and show them. So I did as much as I knew. I have so many fond memories of the students there. I still remember Jenny Palmer challenging me on why we didn’t do worship, and how God used her to cause me to re-think the issue. We soon started a worship band, a band in which some of those same guys and girls are still in ministry, including Jenny. I remember the “chair” video series, a sad attempt to draw attention to empty seats and get the students to invite more friends. We dropped the chair off a building, ran it over with a car, and the finally ended with 7 students including myself opening fire on it with real guns. (WHAT WAS I THINKING?) I remember Scott Flurry, still a dear friend, and the camp he came forward to pray for his dad who was diagnosed with cancer. I remember Michaela Lombana now Michaela Bonner. I went to her grandmother’s house to move a piano when I first met her. Days later her grandmother passed away and she started coming to E-180, and soon gave her life to Jesus. I had the privilege of baptizing her and today she is still living for Jesus. I remember crying with Travis and Tracy Wolz when they found out their parents were getting divorced. I remember our mission trip to St. Louis, our very first couch game, and I am still encouraged by the heart of the people that serve the community and local churches faithfully today like Lee and Carey Smith, John and Angela Bruno, Jim and Rachel Thompson. I am so thankful for Ron Elliott who trusted me enough to make me his youth pastor and for teaching me what a humble and gentle leader looks like. I remember when David Sperling touched his eye after eating at BWW together and his eye swelled up like a watermelon! I could go on and on about John Hobbs, Brandon and Stephanie, Ryan McGlothlin (who broke my heart when he cried at my resignation), Becky Baxter, Zac, Adam, Chris, Chance, Jeremy, Brian Shafer, Nate, Lana, Jordan, Morgan and Ashley, Ed Dupree, Lindsey and Leigh Erin and the list goes on and on.
All I know is this, God took a broken young man and reminded me that he had called me and was going to use me for His name and looking over the last 12 years, He has been faithful. Before I close out this remembrance of my first student ministry (E-180), it wouldn’t be fitting without thanking my friend and mentor Bob Beard. God used him in so many ways in my life to teach me the importance of memorizing scriptures, being a good husband and dad first, and focusing on discipleship. I would not be the same man or pastor without your financial sacrifice of $8 at All-American Subs or Robin Hood every week, and your sacrifice of your lunch break to disciple me! I am eternally grateful that you met me as the 1st man digging the ditch and taught me how to become the 3rd man who was making disciples.