“I’ll send you home from summer camp!”

“Do not use ketchup or mustard on the church lawn anymore.”

“It’s not a smart move to use the church van to ghost ride the whip.”

Believe it or not, those are all things different pastors told me at different times of my life. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, so I thought I’d brag on a couple pastors for a minute who have influenced my life and ministry over the years…

Pastor Skip Heitzig

Every pastor needs a pastor, and Skip is my pastor. I had the honor of serving under his leadership at one of the largest churches in America, Calvary Albuquerque. Pastor Skip taught me about studying and teaching God’s Word, resolving conflict on a church staff and sometimes between other pastors, and about the importance of having fun.

There was a weekly pastors’ meeting on the calendar, but often times we would spend a good chunk of it laughing and having a good time together. He would remind us that serious meetings were important, but so were the not-so-serious ones. One time he told a couple of us youth pastors that he wanted to meet us for a board meeting. I was a bit nervous until he told us it was a snowboard meeting. We drove to Sandia Crest, snowboarded half the day, then went home for dinner.

Pastor Dave Row

The investment Dave Row sowed into my heart and ministry is huge. He taught me Greek, hermeneutics, homiletics, and the great taste of the Cafe Americano.

Dave defended me when I needed it, rebuked me when I earned it, and extended grace to me when I didn’t. He also quite frequently sang songs, played guitar, and helped us find funny YouTube video during our weekly meetings. All of that is valuable, I promise.

Pastor Steve Dirks

Steve Dirks has been the Director of Lone Tree Bible Ranch in Capitan, NM for 20+ years. He’s a hiking, rappelling, rock climbing, marathon-running, biking, rattlesnake-killing, Bible teaching and illustrating extraordinaire.

Our relationship didn’t start off well. In fact, he’s the one responsible for the first quote in the list above (He graciously allowed me to stay at summer camp, however, after I quickly got my act together). Over the years, as I watched him up close as well as from a distance, I learned the importance of studying God’s Word, loving my family, and using the things I’m passionate about to make Jesus known.

Pastor Daniel Schuman

Pastor Danny gave me an opportunity to teach the Bible to a rowdy group of middle schoolers when I was 19 years old. Shortly thereafter, he asked me to take his job as Middle School Youth Pastor when he was moving on. He took a risk on the 19-year old punk version of me, and I’m so thankful he did!

Pastor Frank Ramseur

Pastor Frank leads the largest Calvary Chapel in Tennessee, right in the heart of Chattanooga. Pastor Frank, Calvary Chatt, and the staff there are Godsends in my life. He’s 9 years and 2 kids ahead of me in church planting and parenting, and I’ve learned so much from watching him lead in his church and his home.

Pastor J.R. Gould is one of the first pastors I remember. He was always there for my family, including driving for hours one night when my grandma passed away. It meant the world to my dad that he came. Pastor Tim Maxwell was my pastor when I was just a kid, and even into my teens. He walked through some very challenging times with my family and I, and stayed faithful to Jesus and the preaching of God’s Word. Pastor Galen Woodward was my pastor when I was young as well. He was always so encouraging to me, and enjoyed letting me spend the night with his son, Dustin, so we could watch Goosebumps and ride his go-kart.

Awaken Pastors

I can’t forget this band of brothers that I get to serve with week in and week out.

Nate Witiuk and I started serving together in New Mexico, and either he liked me or was insane enough (or both) to move from Albuquerque to Clarksville to plant Awaken Church. I can’t express how thankful I am to have such a loyal, hard-working, faith-filled, administrative mind serving beside me.

Pastors Jim, Divone, and Drew are a solid team of leaders. From ministry oversight to in-depth one-on-one counseling, from hospital visits to round table meetings, these guys shoulder some serious weight. There would be no hope for me or most of the people at Awaken if it weren’t for these guys and their faithfulness.

It may seem pretty generous to have 1/12 of the calendar dedicated to appreciating pastors, but I think it’s fitting, based on the weight a pastor carries. Pastoral ministry is a calling. It’s not a career. If you can avoid it, please do. But if you’re called, it’s a noble calling worth pursuing and giving your life for!

To every pastor who has impacted my life, ministry, and family, THANK YOU. Your generosity, example, and faithfulness to Jesus and His Church has changed my life and rippled into the lives of the people I minister to. Your reach into my life and theirs is incalculable.