My First Year Of Pastoral Ministry Was Insane

by Jared Sparks August 1, 2018

My first year of pastoral ministry was insane. I mean insane! I was 24, single, and fresh out of a Pentecostal college (Lee University). All I knew of preaching was what I heard from Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler. Theologically, I was just rescued from Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, and Open Theism. I went from that to the extreme of cage-stage Calvinism. We planted a church as a group of frustrated 20-somethings who had no ministry experience. I was semi-regularly looking at pornography. We made a church flyer that had an image of me kicking one of my fellow elders in and unspeakable area with the heading of the flyer that read “Is Life Kicking You In the N*T$?” We actually thought that was okay! So, when I say it was insane, I mean it. And at the same time, it was awesome! God intervened! This ragtag group fell in love with Jesus. Or, better said, God opened our eyes to his word and his grace! 

Rewind 3 years from 2008. It's 2005. That was the season of life where God called me into ministry. When I felt the internal rumblings from the Holy Spirit I started to ask questions. I got some good advice “Don't seek the stage, seek God.” I got some bad advice as well. One guy (Who is a great man, pastor, and friend. I just happen to disagree with this comment) told me something I will never forget; “If you want to preach, make sure you have something to say.” To this day, that comment is burned into my mind. I believed it at first. It sounded right. But, in 2008 I started to unlearn it. I discovered preaching is about making sure I have nothing to say.

If you want to preach, make sure you have nothing to say. My first year of pastoral ministry was when God opened my eyes to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. As I was preaching through Galatians, I became more and more convinced that I had no authority to “say” anything. God's Word was to be preached. Our people did not need anything I had to say. They did not need what I thought or what I felt or what was on my heart. We needed to hear from God! It was 2008 when the great distrust began. I distrusted in my creativity to come up with sermons. I forever abandoned the idea of using the Bible to preach what I wanted. I had to actually preach the Bible.

Needless to say, this year was a turning point for me. Theology was not done by feelings or by what mom, dad, or my church believed. My life, theology, ministry, was to be shaped by the Word. That brings me to grace.

My “Gospel Wakefulness” as Jared Wilson puts it, or my “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” as Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it, happened in 2004. I was working at a camp that summer and our camp director lead us through the book of Galatians. God opened my eyes to the heavenly rabbit hole called grace. So when I first started preaching, I knew I wanted to preach through that book. As you know, the book of Galatians is a broken record of grace. Word by word, chapter by chapter, I was studying, praying, and preaching grace. That first year of preaching would mark these last ten years. By God's grace, I will forever be in awe of grace.

2008 was the year I was ordained. And this was the year God opened my eyes to his Word and his grace.