Pastor Allen and Pastor Troy

In 2003, I was invited to World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I remember my first visits and my first impressions. I thought it was probably a good church to attend if someone wanted to remain anonymous. It's a big place with multiple sanctuaries and multiple services every weekend. I had never attended a mega church. And it didn't feel like me. I had a strong bias against huge churches, service "planning" and even prepared sermons! (Ha. You'd have to know my past for that one.)

But when Pastor Allen Jackson spoke, I felt a spiritual connection with him and his message that was undeniable.

It was important to me to get plugged in and involved. I wasn't looking for an anonymous church experience. So I found ways to volunteer and participate. I volunteered regularly in the church office and was privileged to get to know Allen and his wife Kathy along with many church staff members.

Because of my past beliefs and experiences, I was full of questions and concerns. I was still trying to figure out what I believed. I had spiritual baggage. Lots of it. I had doubts about what I had been previously taught but concerns about simply exchanging one theology for a new theology. It was a time of multi-layered transition in my life. I had spiritual anxiety.

Not only did Pastor Allen consistently speak to my heart through his sermons, he took time to personally speak truth to me in a caring way many times when I was in the office. He asked how I was doing. He took time to thank me for volunteering and made sure I felt appreciated. His teaching, ministry and friendship were God-ordained for a pivotal time in my life. And if we had not moved to West Virginia in 2012, I'm quite certain we would still be attending WOC regularly.

Pastor Allen, I appreciate you, your ministry, your ongoing investment in the kingdom of God, and your personal investment in my life. Thank you.

When we moved to West Virginia, we had to find a new church community. WOC had been one kind of completely different church experience for me. And GCC would be another new and different experience on the other side of the spectrum. WOC is a congregation of thousands. Glade Community Church, where we attend today, is a congregation fairly small in number. We have easily 140-150 people when everyone is there, but rarely do we have everyone there on any given weekend. Many of us travel regularly in this community.

GCC was the first church we visited in our new home town. But right after our first time visiting GCC, the founding pastor had a massive stroke and passed away. We visited several churches in the area, but we kept feeling like we were being led back to GCC. John and I both agreed that we didn't want to consider congregations based on what they had to offer us. We prayed that God would lead us somewhere that we could be a blessing. And, in hindsight, we know He answered that prayer.

GCC was thrust into a lengthy time of transition with the founding pastor's passing. A new pastor was recruited. And there would be a time of adjustment. There were different ideas, visions and opinions about the direction of the church. We lost some members and gained others. But God has blessed those of us who have stayed the course. There is a palpable surge of enthusiasm in our congregation these days. We quickly raised funds to build a new sanctuary on our existing property next year. And I think I can speak for all in saying we are excited about the future and about God's plans for us individually and collectively.

Our pastor, Troy Rackliffe, came to us from Texas. John and I quickly developed a friendship with him as we made an intentional effort to get to know him. I volunteered to work with him on a new church website.

Troy's a phone communicator and I'm an email/text communicator. Let me say right up front that I am not always the best team player when it comes to my creative side. John and I rarely argue, but we've had many a tense moment trying to hang something on the wall as a team. We have "me do it" moments (like little siblings).

I remember working for hours on a theme for the website and finally thinking it was perfect, only to have Troy want to try other themes after I thought we had a finished product. Putting my preferences and pride aside with a heavy sigh, I tried to be accommodating in this joint effort. Ultimately, we put together a site we were both satisfied with. And we even agreed which theme was best. But that's not the point of this story.

The point is this: Working together (whether with a pastor, a spouse, a friend or co-worker) will always require give and take, compromise, and an awareness that we all have personality quirks. It's natural to assign all the quirks to others, but the real truth is, we're all quirky in our own ways. I remember feeling slightly annoyed because my communication preference was text and email while Troy's was talking on the phone. But that was MY quirk. And in conversations with John, I owned it.

Why would I ever navigate through life with this subconscious internal notion that everyone around me should adapt to my preferences? I don't believe that cognitively. But I sometimes approach life that way and only sidestep the pitfall by confronting myself. Usually, that involves confession to someone.... Maybe on my blog. Maybe to John or a friend. 

Over time, I have been more and more impressed with Troy as our pastor. He has been steadfast and unwavering in his commitment to God and all of us. He has stayed focused on God's best for our little church through every bump in the road. He's shown humility in situations where I don't know how I would have responded. A pastor has to know when to speak and when not to. So many times I have witnessed our pastor put what was best for the congregation ahead of what was best for him and do it with both grace and class.

Pastor Troy, I appreciate you for the example you have been in dedication and humility. You bring us the gospel. You challenge us to live it. And you always point us to the cross, God's love and His grace. You have a servant's heart and you reach out to others without putting a spotlight on anything you do. Thank you.


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