Pastor… What Church Are You Indebted To?


I’ve been reflecting on my pastoral journey a bit in the last 24 hours. I believe it’s good to remember those who have made a difference in your life and ministry, especially those who have been a serious blessing to you. I’m certain Paul felt this way as he poignantly said to the church in Philipi, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:7)

In these hours of reminiscing many people have come to mind that made a difference in my ministry life. One of the first churches I ever served was Immanuel Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. These dear people welcomed a green, immature, untrained young college student and his wife and allowed us to do our best for them. Due to their patience we were able to learn ministry up close and personal.

A few months ago Immanuel Baptist celebrated a landmark year in the church’s life. I couldn’t attend so I sent a letter. You can see that letter in the paragraphs that follow. I wonder… What church are you indebted to?

Dear Members of Immanuel Baptist Church,

I can’t thank you enough for your investment in my life and in Julie’s. For those of you who have been at Immanuel for over 30 years, you may recall that Julie and I were newlyweds, just 19 and 20 years of age with little to no ministry experience, when we arrived to take on the role of Music Minister and Children’s Minister. You took us under your wing and graciously gave each of us opportunity to learn what it means to be in ministry.

I will never forget an eventful moment during a choir rehearsal I was leading when one of the older fellows in the choir raised his hand as I was struggling to direct a song to ask, “Rick, have you considered taking a conducting class?”. He was so very right, I knew little about what I was doing. But, you persevered with me.

I guess I never really had to learn how to conduct a choir anyway as I never have served a church full-time as her music minister or worship pastor. In God’s grace I have had the opportunity to serve as the Baptist Campus Minister at Northern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University, been the Small Groups Pastor and Associate Teaching Pastor at Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, have served at LifeWay Church Resources for 11 years as the Discipleship and Small Groups Specialist as well as with NavPress as her small group specialist. And, in 2004 planted The Bridge, a Southern Baptist Church in Spring Hill, Tennessee that my oldest son now pastors.

My purpose for giving you this list of ministry experiences is not for the purpose of sounding my own horn, rather, to honor you. It was Immanuel Baptist Church that gave me my first opportunity to serve my Lord in substantial ways as a church leader. Had there not been so much love, kindness, patience, and grace, I might have gone down a pathway other than ministry.

I will forever be indebted to you.

Rick Howerton

Discipleship and Small Group Specialist

LifeWay Church Resources


One comment

  1. Rick, This was a wonderful post and obviously heartfelt… but I was wondering if you ever had a really bad church experience and what, in that experience, did you learned and with what, in that experience, you were blessed? That would make another very interesting post.

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