In 2005, when I first became a student at Lee University, I knew that I also wanted to do ministry. I picked up the phone and called North Cleveland Church of God, a church that was within walking distance of the university.
I asked to speak to someone about evangelism and was transferred to a man named Larry Wilson. Larry answered the phone, and I told him I was a student at Lee, I had a passion for evangelism, and I wanted to learn and help.
He pulled the phone away from his face and said, “Praise God” in a loud voice. He said he had just been praying for help.
That was how it all started. I became an intern with Larry and developed a lifelong relationship with him. He officiated my wedding and dedicated my boys.
My experience at North Cleveland with Larry was one of the most developmental times of my life as a Christian and a leader.
North Cleveland is a large church that hosts many events from concerts and conferences to revivals, where people have church every day (sometimes multiple times a day) for about a week… that’s a lot of church, and it's awesome! And this is where I learned something I still think about to this day.
At one of these revivals, there were several well-known speakers and musicians who would be a part of the services. Larry told me that I was going to be serving at the event, and I was pumped! When I found out, I was, of course, excited because of the possibility of meeting one of the speakers or musicians. So, when I showed up in a suit waiting for a VIP backstage assignment, I got a surprise that I still remember and am grateful for today. And no, I did not get to meet someone who later provided me with a huge opportunity.
Larry gave me a neon vest and traffic wand and told me where to report for parking duty. I was, to say the least, a little let down and I am ashamed to say, embarrassed. I wanted to be a part of the action, and not the parking lot kind. But in this moment, I learned first-hand what Larry told me on many occasions, “ministry is work”. I don’t know if Larry was teaching me something with this, or it was just where he needed someone when I showed up. It was my first time working in a parking lot. I had all kinds of thoughts as I did my job that night. I thought about what I would rather be doing, how I was probably not doing a good job and how I had a lot to learn. Luckily, I did learn a lot.
Over the next several years, I got to be part of many different areas of the church while I was an intern at North Cleveland. At other events, I was able to spend time with some of those “church famous” people but I am not as interested in writing about that. What I was looking for when I showed up to be important was not nearly as important as what I learned showing people where to park.
Fast forward to today, and I am in the parking lot... and I like it. We had church at the local mall parking lot due to the current pandemic. People had to stay in their cars while the service was on a stage with a large screen. I got to be a part of the team that provided a space for people to worship when we couldn’t go inside the building. It matters. My view of what it means to be a leader has changed many times over the years. We often find our worth in what we get to do more than who we are and who God is calling us to be. I would be lying if I said I have no pride now. But, because of my journey, I know that I have a desire to serve. I also know more about what it means to lead because of what I learned 15 years ago as a college kid in a parking lot in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Thank you, Larry.
P.S. Ministry is still work.