18 DOWN BUT THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

27 06 2015

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It was 18 years ago this past weekend that I excitingly accepted the call to become the Pastor of The Lighthouse Church! (For those of you who know that numbers and mathematics is not my strongpoint- this weekend marks 18 full years in the books and I am about to begin my 19th year as Pastor of TLC!) I remember being at the Seashore Campgrounds for an after church picnic with Terry Welsh grilling up burgers to perfection- when the Search Committee cornered me and extended me the invitation to come and lead the flock. I had already prayed about what I would say if given the opportunity and just the day before- as I stood on the Wildwood Beach looking out at the ocean, here was the verse that God gave me as I wondered whether it was his plan and purpose for me to come home to New Jersey. It was John 11:40 “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So having no idea what my salary was to be and knowing that the move was going to upset the apple cart of my family’s comfort, I said, “Yes.” And here I am, only because of the grace and provision of a Mighty God, about to embark upon the 19th year of adventure here in Cape May County.

People sometimes ask me why, in a day when Ministers seem to come and go and change and rotate churches rather quickly, how am I still here? They don’t know the back story that I want to share with all of you today. When I was about to graduate Philadelphia College of Bible in 1982, I had accepted the call to work with Youth for Christ in South Jersey! I was very excited about the challenge to work with young people down here in our neck of the woods! But shortly after graduation, I caved in to family peer pressure and resigned my position with YFC before ever stepping foot in the neighborhood. I did end up with Youth For Christ, but ministering in North Jersey where I had grown up. God did move wonderfully in those days and I loved every individual that I had the privilege to pastor! Yet there was still this gnawing in my soul that I had walked away from my first assignment.

After leaving Campus Life in North Jersey, I landed in Ohio as a Youth Pastor in Dayton and the Akron area. We made incredible friendships and many unforgettable ministry memories; I can’t complain because God moved and lives were challenged, and I rejoiced and wouldn’t change a thing about those years. I eventually was serving God in Omaha, Nebraska as the Youth/College/Singles Pastor when I knew that there was something undone in my spirit. In June of 1997, I received a call from our District Superintendent for the Metropolitan Area of The Christian and Missionary Alliance inquiring if I had any interest in pursuing an open Senior Pastor position in- yes, you guessed it- South Jersey! In our Denomination, you are not blindly transferred from parish to parish without any input. We are asked if we would want to consider being part of a candidating process that works with the church that is looking. My Dad was actually in Omaha when I received the first phone calls from wonderful men like Gerry Stout and Art Hall and I can’t lie- my heart was jumping and doing somersaults as these men introduced me to the potential of what they believed the Lord could do through the vehicle called The Lighthouse Church.

I was at an awesome church in Omaha that had 2700 people coming to it, 14 full time Pastors on staff, a plethora of Administrative Assistants and a Facility that made newcomers’ mouths drop wide open. My peers asked me, “Are you out of your mind?” It didn’t make sense to anyone who sees ministry as a career of always moving up to bigger and better things! The Lighthouse Church had no building, no staff, and no functional copy machine and yet I saw what only faith will allow you to see! Plus, I knew what nobody else knew- that this was my second chance to get it right and to go to where the Lord first invited me- back to South Jersey! God moved miraculously in selling our home in Omaha before we even had to put it on the market and in the Summer of 1997, Rudy and his family were coming home! My oldest son Rudy III who is today a Pastor himself in Johnstown, Pa was in 5th Grade at the time. Leah was in 4th Grade, Abbie was in 1st and Joel was still a distant dream. All my children have grown up in Cape May County and have loved the experience. Now my Grandkids come back to enjoy the life that we who call this area home treasure. But the real lesson is that sometimes God will allow us to take our own detours- even having to go via Ohio and Omaha to get back to where we first belonged!

I have no intentions of retiring or resting on any laurels. When Christians cease to go forward- they cease to grow inward and upward! As amazing as God has moved in our midst in the days gone by- I really believe the best is yet to come! I am not talking about buildings or budgets–but changed and transformed lives! Men coming back to being the Husbands and Dad’s they were meant to be! Women being set free from abuse and Kids growing up knowing they are designed masterpieces in the eyes of their Creator! Church is not about a place you go to be informed. It is about coming together under Jesus to be transformed! He makes us what we could never accomplish on our own!

I also love being part of a community! Thank you for reading these weekly articles! I enjoy my times on the radio- Praise FM- Lift FM and 98.7 The Coast. I love interacting and lending a helping hand to our local officials and businesses! I get energized talking to my neighbors and friends in WaWa and Wal-Mart. I guess I see myself as a County Pastor and not just somebody who only tends to those who are part of his local flock. It is not about anybody coming to The Lighthouse Church as much as it is all about showing people Jesus! In a day when the moral compass of our Nation is going haywire- I think it is good to know that some things never change! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love one another! And no matter what the latest opinion polls may point to- Jesus said it best when he stated, “The Truth shall set you free.” It has set me free to be content where I am with who I am for such a time as this! How about you?  

 

 


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One response

30 06 2015
Dennis Hall

Wow Pastor Rudy, what a great story. I knew some of your adventure but not to the detail you explained in the article. We are so very thankful that you are our Senior Pastor and for your humble approach to “Show em Jesus” as your Dad said often. Love you Brother, Friend and Pastor!

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