Nearly 2 ½ years ago when my church, Calvary Assembly in Winter Park, Florida, conducted its search for a new pastor, I must admit I had a very closed mind. You might say that it fell under the category of an “unteachable spirit.”
When people asked me what I was hoping for in a new pastor to help revive a declining church, my response was adamant. “I really believe our elders should hire someone who is between 35 and 40 and is either African-American or Hispanic. If they hire someone who is nearly 50 and white, that might just spell the end of our church.”
We’ve had the latter in the 12 years that my family and I have been attending Calvary, and since we’ve been there, the attendance had dwindled from about 2,100 to 600. It’s not that I have anything against 50-year-old Caucasians (I’m one myself), it’s just that I believed that an ethnic pastor would breathe some new life into our church and that’s exactly what we needed going forward.
I admit I was very skeptical when Ed Garvin came on board as our pastor in early 2014. But then that reveals the shortcomings in my character and not his. I prayed that he would do well, but at the same time, I didn’t believe it in my heart.
Boy, was I wrong. And God has let me know that in no uncertain terms.
Not only do I now believe that Pastor Garvin was the right person for Calvary for “a time such as this,” there isn’t a Sunday that goes by when he’s preaching that I don’t hang on almost his every word. And it’s not idol worship, I assure you, although I believe he and I are becoming good friends.
No, the man is anointed and preaches God’s Word with authority. While many are still preaching milk, he’s preaching meat. As a matter of fact, if you listen to Pastor Garvin’s sermons, they will take you to a higher level in Christ—if you’re really paying attention. You can listen to some of his sermons here. I encourage you to do so.
I never used to take notes in church on Sunday. Now, you won’t see me without a pen and a pad of paper. Pastor Garvin is very quotable—I use some of his material in my writing—just like my publisher, Dr. Steve Greene. Both men are veritable quote machines.
We’re growing again—albeit methodical growth—as our congregation has reached over 800. We recently received a huge donation to the church and God is beginning to bless Calvary again because Calvary is blessing others—in the mission field, other churches, etc., with that money.
A coincidence? Not on your life.
Pastor Garvin has helped hire some great new staff, and they are taking us to a new level. Our worship leader, Puchi Colon, has made our worship portion of the service enjoyable again. Our children’s pastor, Sheikh Ally, is sparking revival in the children’s ministry, as is Brandyn Shepherd with our youth and Dana Gagner with our young adults. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our executive pastor, Mike Justice and our outreach pastor, Jeff Arp, who both are doing a tremendous job as well.
So what is the moral of this story? It’s cliché, but don’t judge a book by its cover. God certainly knows what He’s doing, and I benefit from His wisdom simply by Pastor Garvin’s presence. God reminds me simply to trust Him. He’s got this.
And as I always like to say, “there is that.”
Step Out of the Boat is a ministry created by Charisma Media Online Manging Editor Shawn A. Akers and dedicated to helping Christ followers strengthen their faith to get beyond their comfort zone and come to a more intimate relationship with Jesus. With its articles, podcasts and other forms of media, Step Out of the Boat encourages Christ followers to daily reach to a higher level in their calling.
Shawn A. Akers is the online managing editor at Charisma Media. He is a published poet and published a story about Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can read his blog here. To sign up for his newsletter, “Step Out of the Boat,” and other Charisma newsletters, click here. You can also listen to his podcasts, the Javelin Sports Show, on the Charisma Podcast Network.