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I’ve had three first days as a pastor in three different churches.

Day One

On my first day ever I was 24. I moved into my office, arranged my books, and sat down at my desk. I had longed for this day and couldn’t believe it had arrived. The church was small, but I had big plans. I’d already begun to redesign the logo, and I’d started plans to blitz the community to tell them a new pastor was in town.

Where to begin?

I couldn’t believe that a church trusted me enough to call me as pastor. I had no idea how much I didn’t know.

Day Two

On my second first day I was 30. I was now in my second church. I was encouraged by the opportunity for a fresh start in a larger church and for staff support so I could focus on preaching and leadership. I was nervous how the church would respond to a new pastor, and new that the church was divided along generational lines.

I had more experience. I thought I could handle it. I had never managed a church staff before. I knew more than I did before, but I still didn’t know how far I had to go.

Day Three

I don’t know exactly when my third first day happened. It may have been January 16, 2012, the first day that I woke up with the job of church planting. It may have been on October 13, 2012, the evening we held our first information night. It may have been November 3, 2012, when we had our first launch team meeting, or September 29, 2013, the date that the church held its first public meeting.

It was a day one unlike the others. For one thing, I don’t even know when it was! But that’s not all.

  • I knew that I didn’t have what it would take to lead this church.
  • I had suffered. Really suffered. We were living not out of strength but out of an ongoing sense of weakness and dependence.
  • I had finally been cured of chasing techniques and fads, and had a growing, stable theology of ministry and confidence in God’s promise to do his work through his Word.
  • I finally understood how to find my meaning and significance in the gospel rather than in my performance and success. (I understood, but had to keep reminding myself.)
  • I still had a lot to learn — still do — but finally knew it.

I really don’t know if I was a better pastor on this day than the previous ones. I hope so. Paul said it should be so (1 Timothy 4:15).

On this day I was more battered and aware of my weaknesses than ever before. I was also more confident in God and his promises, more secure in my standing, and more aware of how far I had to grow.

I had much less confidence in myself and much less swagger on my last first day, and much more confidence in God and his gospel. I’m thinking that’s exactly how God wanted me to be all along.

I can’t go back to the very beginning and start this way, but with God’s grace that’s how I want to live and serve the rest of my life.