22 March 2012

Initial Houston thoughts

by Dan Phillips

In the months and weeks leading up to this massive, major change, Valerie and others would say how happy I must be, how excited I must be, and all that. Those were totally realistic expectations. Any normal person would have been.

And then there's me.

I was more tense, apprehensive, overloaded, and did I say "tense"? I was glad of the possibilities, but most of what I could see were the details and the uncontrollables and the unpredictable-but-criticals and my own endless limitations and failings. I said I would probably start feeling after I got here.

And that has indeed been the case. This ministry started off at a brisk pace. In general, of course, there's everything in the world to learn, and I naturally want to learn it all at once. One of the elders asked if he could do anything for me. "Yes you can," I answered. "Download everything you know about this church, and all your experiences, directly into my brain." Sadly, he was unable to comply.

More specifically, one of the dear souls I'd looked forward to getting to know better was in the hospital and not doing well. So I spent a few hours with him on my first day, and then when the next day his health trajectory seemed grim, I spent some time with his wife. The following day, sadly, he died. Thus followed ministry to his wife (in which, once again, this loving church stepped right up) and family, and the planning of the funeral — the first I've conducted in over 25 years.

Once again, this church came through, with many taking time off work to come, help, sing, assemble a choir, and show love for the deceased and his wife.

Back to the larger picture: At the same time, this dear church family had greeted us so warmly and affectionately that it was simply overwhelming. Plus I had the wonderful prospect of my dear friend Frank and his terrific wife and kids coming into town, and the whole joy of the installation service. But each day started at oh-dark-thirty and ended in the 11-12+ range.

Now, in my previous job, I doggedly resisted overtime. I was happy to leave IT work at the building. Now I'm putting in long long days, and absolutely loving it. I am so grateful, glad, joyous, challenged, charged, out-of-my-depth, blessed, and hopeful. It is terrific. (Of course, I'm going to have to work to balance the schedule to allow for family-time, so thank God that both my family and our church understands.)

The installation service was a real blessing to me. First, Dr. Paul Shockley, the most frequent interim preacher as CBC searched for a pastor, gave a charge to the congregation and to me. It was very gracious, and very moving to me. Then the one and only Frank Turk held forth, also pretty wonderful (as you already know).

I found myself tussling with tears more than once. And when it was my turn to preach, I had to catch myself at the first step, fight back the tears, get a grip, and get on with it. The sermon was (relatively) brief and a joy to present to this gracious, responsive assembly of saints. Afterwards, we enjoyed a fellowship meal (pot luck) together, as I continued to flog new names into my memory.

Aside: One of the coolest things? Not trying to say everything that could be said about 2 Tim. 4:1-5 in one sermon, but instead remarking "we may well revisit this later." Understand, for the last fourteen years or so, my preaching has as a rule been dozens of delightful one-offs and two-offs and conferences here and there. No continuity. But now, God willing, I'm going to be here for a good long while. I don't have to try to say everything in this sermon — because, Deo volente, there's next week! And the next! Or I can start a study! Or two! Or five!

It is very, very cool.

I'm only scratching the surface of what life here has been. These folks are being such a joy to get to know, and so is the area. Tuesday night, a brother was telling me about the major intersection just down the street from the church. It's full of all sorts of stores now, including Target and what-not. But in the seventies, he used to hunt coyotes and wolves there, and receive a bounty for them. Just cool.

And where else can you have a church-member visibly wearing a pistol say "I've got a bone to pick with you," and not break out in a sweat?

I am loving it here.

Thanks again to all who have prayed for an opportunity like this.

Please don't stop, now that it's here.

Dan Phillips's signature


Pastor Pants said...

Praying for you, my friend, as you embark on this journey again.

As I consider some of the larger, well known, less biblical local churches in that neck of the woods, it seems to me incredibly providential that the the author of TWTG would be in such a place.

I pray you would have a significant impact on many in that area.

Chris Anderson said...

Happy for you, happy for them. Pray for you, pray for me.

DJP said...

I was in fact praying for both of you earlier this morning. Love you both, glad for both of your ministries.

Michael R. Jones said...

Glad to hear it went (mostly) well. your comment that you were "tense, apprehensive, overloaded, and did I say "tense"" I totally associate with. I, too, have a tendency to see the "details and the uncontrollables and the unpredictable-but-criticals." Glad to hear that the Lord sustained you and you were able to rest in him.

Nauvoo Pastor said...

How wonderful and encouraging for you and for those who get to read this. I well continue in pray for the ministry there and for God's leadership to come to the fore.

Cathy M. said...

I listened to your inaugural sermon on podcast. It was really strange to hear your voice, since I've only ever read your writings. May your family flourish in your new home and begin to use "y'all" as a preferred pronoun soon.

Solameanie said...

It blesses me to read this. Praying indeed for continued joy in the journey and ministry.

Anonymous said...

Funny how a couple posts from a guy I've never met, but only read, can bring a tear or two to my eyes.

I'm so thankful for you and your ministry and for this blessing the Lord has given to you, your family and CBC.

God is good.

CAPTSteveHardy said...

What Daryl said.

Nash Equilibrium said...

That's neat. It's normal to be "drinking from the fire hose" this early in any new position, but soon it will all fall into place!

Frank Turk said...

The big upside of this for all of us is finally to have a DJP podcast.

Randy Talley said...

Praying from this part of Virginia as well, brother.

My aunt and cousin live 10 miles away from you. The next time I have an opportunity to visit them, I intend to drop in on you as well.

Bob Johnson said...

I assume you'll have no cause for concern when approached by a man carrying a weapon because you'll be at least as well armed as he; yes?

I am tickled pink for you, brother... truly, genuinely delighted that God has brought this to pass. I will pray that much Gospel success will occur in your service to Him and His people there.

Now, please stop "gushing" and resume being the contentious, cynical cur we've come to know and love.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I don't have to try to say everything in this sermon — because, Deo volente, there's next week! And the next! Or I can start a study! Or two! Or five!

What an amazing privilege it must be to be able to say that. What better occupation must there be for one who so loves the Word of God? None I can think of. (Okay, maybe blogging really well comes in WELL behind that...so I've heard.) And of course, if I over-think it, I'll contradict myself. Suffice it to say that I'm thrilled for you!

Randy Talley said...

Frank Turk said...
The big upside of this for all of us is finally to have a DJP podcast.

And a Turkcast is only a matter of time, rigth? Right?

Manfred said...

How wonderful to have another biblically-minded pastor in town. Perhaps we will start to tip the scales :-)

romans923 said...

One important warning, watch out for the BBQ and the Cajun food that has crept in from LA. Easy to put on the pounds in Texas. Lots of good brisket and chilis. With the increase in deliciousness comes the increase in blood pressure and cholesterol.

Also, you are closer to Mexico now? Opportunities to do mission trips there?

Sir Aaron said...

I think Dan has seen a couple briskets by now. ;)

Terry Lange said...

Glad that the Lord has given you this opportunity. Pray for those of us who are still looking for a place to serve in a similar capacity. I have enjoyed reading your posts on the transition and how this all unfolded.

Stephen said...

Just a couple questions:

Are you going to change your twitter handle and blogger name to "Pastor Dan"? And are you going to plant satellite campuses, uh, churches all over the south/southwest??? Once this podcast starts getting out, people are going to be clamoring for video podcasts. And from there...

Eddie Eddings said...

Thanks for the update. God is good!

There is a treasure to be found near you. When you find the time, take a little trip to Pasadena, Texas and visit Pilgrim Publishers. Bob Ross, and his son, Mike will be thrilled to meet you...and their bookstore is packed with classics. You'll thank me when we all (the elect) get to Heaven.

Robert said...

I didn't think about this before, but Kress is up in the Woodlands...so you're pretty close to those guys now, too.

I wouldn't imagine that you wouldn't have been tense. You are now responsible for rightly dividing the Word of truth for a whole congregation and delivering it to them regularly so as to help them grow up to the fullness of Christ. And you are to be a faithful shepherd of these souls, which is quite a responsibility. I am so happy to know that you are at CBC and I am sure that you and the church will enjoy much growth together. I'm sorry that I didn't get to come Wednesday morning...I can't say enough how encouraging it was to see Glenn's smiling face on Sunday mornings and to sit and talk with him always left me refreshed and comforted.

I'm glad to hear that you have received a warm welcome. I wouldn't expect any less and I am sure that you and your family will grow comfortable in the church family there. I will continue in prayer for you and CBC. It's amazing how through your blogging you were brought back into preaching. God's Providence is really amazing when you get to observe it.

Fred Greco said...

I've been in Houston now for about six years, having grown up in the Finney "burnt over district" (Western New York) and lived in the Cleveland area for a decade. My family and I love Houston, and our church (Christ Church PCA in Katy on the west side). The congregation has responded to my ministry with great encouragement and support.

I have found Houston to be a very unique place to labor for the kingdom. It has the impact of a large urban area, and yet because so many people have moved he from elsewhere, it is not parochial or cliquish. The people in the community in general are open to talking about spiritual things in general, and Christ in specific. That does not mean every one agrees, but they will (generally speaking) give you a hearing.

It is a wonderful place to be.

Pastor Fred Greco, Christ Church PCA

chiefleast said...

When I read the title I was expecting your thoughts on the Whitney Houston toxicology reports!

Awesome opportunity for you to share the gospel and that congregation to feed off of it. Reading your posts the past few I always thought another pastorship was inevitable for your specific giftings. Awesome to hear about, and congratulations!
Prayers for you and them friend.

DJP said...

Thanks... and good point. Didn't think of that!

Caleb Kolstad said...


Congrats! Is this your first time in vocational ministry? I always assumed you had been a pastor before.

cb said...

Why, oh why is it that I always find these Churches with great theology and then they throw it all away with Dispensationalism?!? Where are the good ole' Covenant Reformed Baptists?!?

Seriously though- Long time reader but don't comment much because writing just isn't my thing. praying for you in your new role. So excited Copperfield has you! Look forward to visiting when I find myself in Houston. That used to be my old stomping ground. I worked at Copperfield (Formerly Baptist) Church for years until I just couldn't take it anymore. I may send some in-laws your way as well. God Bless!

J♥Yce Burrows said...

Am so happy to read of your recent news, Dan; God is indeed good and toward you all! Prayers for His continued and richest blessings in Christ Jesus ~ are yours.


DJP said...

Thanks (mostly) cb and Joyce.

Caleb: yes I have, but it's been awhile.

Jim Pemberton said...

Glad to hear you are getting settled in down there and that you are in your element. Two words of wisdom that you may already know, but may soon put off:

Pace yourself.

Kevin Sorensen said...

Thanks for the open honesty, Dan. As a pastor in ministry for 27+ years, 15 of those years in one church now, I pray the Lord will grant you longevity there. There's nothing like it. It's the only way to get to know "those people."

Yes, I too wished someone could have downloaded everything about the church during that first week. I got something better: because we lived in another state with a house to sell, we "couldn't" move right away. But they wanted us so badly, so I commuted on the weekends and stayed with church families for nearly six months, every weekend. Now that's how you get to know folks!

Blessings upon you and the ministry there. Preach the word, in season and out of season; preach expositionally. Take your time and may God grant you plenty of it so you can preach the whole counsel of God.