GRACE STREET CHURCH OF CHRIST, CROCKETT
By Greg Ritchie
This is a series of reports the Messenger will be doing each Sunday about local pastors in our area. To see the full interview, check out the video online at the end of this article. The Messenger would like to thank Cutshaw Chevrolet in Grapeland for sponsoring this week’s edition.
When did you first feel a calling to be a preacher?
“My dad was a gospel preacher. He was much more of what I would refer to as an evangelist. My dad’s dream was for my brother and I to be preachers as well. My older brother is still a gospel preacher. That just wasn’t my dream. I saw the struggles – the hardships that went with that choice. I just didn’t see why someone would volunteer for that kind of struggle and taking on everybody’s problems. Then my dad got cancer and we were working with a little church. And the situation arose where a decision had to be made to hire someone in the interim to preach. I offered to fill in until dad got better. Well, dad didn’t improve – he passed away from cancer. And next thing I knew I was preaching. God knew a lot more about what was going on. And I’ve been there. I’ve been there ever since.”
What is the hardest part of being a preacher?
“You know, most people I think would probably say that dealing with people’s problems would be the burden. And I can’t say that it isn’t sometimes a heavy burden. It does break your heart. It is difficult, but the truth is, that’s what drives me. That is not difficult for me. The hard part for me, I think, honestly, I am kind of a driven person and it’s a challenge for me to balance my own expectations of myself in my ministry, other people’s expectations of my ministry and what I think God’s expectation is. Trying to balance those things out. For example, taking a week’s vacation. After a couple of days, I feel like there’s things I need to be doing and that’s kind of unfair to my life and to my family at times. I work hard to try to balance that, especially the older I get. But it’s also the fact that I think when people think of a preacher, they think of this unrealistic figure of a man – somebody who, in other words, when someone introduces me as this is our minister – it’s almost as if things change. People don’t view me as a normal human being. I am just like everyone else, you know. And that’s just a personal thing for me. I really just like being introduced as ‘Jimmy’ more than ‘Minister.’”
What do you like most about being a pastor?
“I love people. I love being involved with people. I love watching people love, dynamically transform with God’s power. I love that. Is it challenging? Yes. First, I look in the mirror and see that I need that more than anybody. But it’s easy to focus on an organization or a job or a career. And I view my work as a teacher or preacher in church as none of those things. Actually, it’s just a gift that God has given me that I didn’t know I had for a long time – or didn’t feel like I had. I was involved with a funeral service yesterday for a family – a close friend, a brother in Christ. And that is a privilege. I mean, you get to touch people’s lives in a way that you just cannot in normal society. So I love that. That’s the blessing for me.”
What do you think God wants from each of us?
“You know, I think about that a lot. I think there are probably a lot of ways that a person can answer that question. I suspect everybody that you’ve talked to, and will talk to – would have a different answer – because I think there’s more than one answer. But to me, I always try to back up and look at the picture as big as I can. And I think I always think about a statement that God makes repeatedly in the Old Testament, I want to be your God. And I want you to be my people. That is kind of the sum total of what Scripture is about. God wants a relationship with us. And we are the ones that have messed that up. He has made provision to solve that problem. So I think that is to me the summary of what God wants, ‘I want you and I want you to want Me.’”
Grace Street Church of Christ meets each Sunday at 10:45 a.m. at 124 South Grace Street, Crockett. Call the church at 936-687-4422.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org