It’s the dream of every architect. It was certainly my dream: to move to the city and contribute to the city’s skyline. My calling was clear at the ripe age of six. It was 1978 when I came home from kindergarten and asked my mom, “What do you call a person who designs buildings?” She responded, “An architect.” I declared with emphatic determination, “That’s what I’m going to be.” I never wavered from that calling.
As a child, city skylines mesmerized me. They still do. I remember when our family would travel during the summer months and I anticipated that moment when from a great distance you could see the city skyline. I watched in anticipation to see the “Batman building” as we approached Nashville. I remember my first visit to Sears Tower in Chicago. I could have spent days in the observation deck. I remember placing my hand on the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Lexington’s view of the “blue building” with its glowing blue light as seen from a distance on Richmond Road has always been one of my favorites. There is always something invigorating each time I see a city skyline. Every city that I have visited since my childhood has made an indelible imprint on my memory.
Architecture even impacted my creative play as a child. Legos, Erector Sets, or any other toy that gave expression to my creativity was among my favorite toys. These toys allowed me to imagine what could be and then create what my mind had envisioned. By the time I was in middle and high school, my calling as an architect only grew more steadfast. It was during this time that my teachers recognized my resolve to pursue this career and some of them helped me develop a path to that end. One of my teachers gave me a list of the top architecture schools in the United States that were fully accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. The University of Kentucky was the only one in Kentucky. Everything was falling into place exactly as I had hoped.
In the late eighties and early nineties, the College of Architecture at the University of Kentucky had a strict acceptance program. Students couldn’t simply declare Architecture as their major. Instead, they must be accepted into the program through an examination process that involved creativity, artistry, design, mathematics, critical thinking skills, and so forth. Once each year, prospective students from all over the world came to the University of Kentucky to participate in their all-day architecture exam for entrance. Waiting for the results of this entrance exam was more intense than acceptance to the university. The packet finally arrived. It was a congratulatory letter that informed me that I was accepted among the top 10%. The years of preparation were paying off.
Before I continue, it’s important to note that there was one major change in my life that occurred between my kindergarten calling as an architect in 1978 and my high school graduation of 1990. It was the summer of 1987; I gave my life to Christ. My life was transformed. Commitments are one of my high core values. Perhaps that goes without saying since I committed to architecture at such a young age.
During my sophomore year at the University of Kentucky, I grew miserable doing what I loved. It’s difficult to explain. How can I be so despondent? I knew that God was calling me into ministry, but architecture had been my plan since kindergarten! One of the most difficult obstacles for me to overcome was my own pride. How can I abandon something that I had been working toward for so long? How can I tell those teachers who invested heavily into my plans for a career in architecture? How can I tell my soon-to-be fiancé; who by the way was the daughter of a pastor and insisted that she would never marry a pastor! I remember feeling as though God had pulled the rug out from underneath me. The blueprint for my life was changing. How could it not? I was continuing my plan toward architecture without consideration of God’s plan for my life. I made the mistake that many Christians make, creating a dichotomy between my faith and my daily life.
The affirmation of God’s call on my life to ministry came with the utmost clarity. I was reading what would become my life verse: 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It stood out to me as never before. God was using terms that connected my heart and my brain in such a way that was undeniable. The Greek word translated in this passage as “master builder” is arkhitekton, from which we get the word architect. Could this be? Has God been preparing me for something far greater than temporal buildings of brick and mortar? Was my kindergarten calling to architecture all part of God’s plan? I believe it was. From that day forward I never questioned God’s call on my life to the gospel ministry. God was calling me to be an architect to help others build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
As I prepared to share God’s call on my life to ministry with those I was certain to disappoint with the news, I had to swallow my own pride. It wasn’t that I expected them to be disappointed in my call to ministry, but disappointed in the abandonment of a career in architecture. As I shared the news that God had called me into ministry, it was not met with surprise or disappointment. Instead, it seemed like a secret that everyone else knew except me! After sharing the news of God’s call, one responded, “I thought you were going to share some news with me? I’ve known God was calling you to ministry for a long time.” God used those conversations to once again affirm His call on my life to ministry.
Perhaps no conversation was more affirming than that of Cheryl. After all, she was the one that declared she would never marry a pastor. Would this be the deal-breaker? God would certainly not call me into ministry, and not at the same time call my future bride to the unique role of pastor’s wife. As will prove to be the case throughout our marriage, she was always one step ahead of me in discerning God’s will. The news was no surprise to her; she was simply waiting for me to catch up.
Through my years of ministry, God has used the skills that He has given me for His Kingdom work. Architects have a God-given ability to envision something that doesn’t exist, develop a strategic plan, and guide the process to see it come to life.
My first visit to the Charlotte – Lake Norman area was in 2001. I would spend the next thirteen years of ministry here. I would discover that God not only calls you to ministry and to a specific church, but He also calls you to a community. As I reflect on my years of vocational ministry (since 1993), I believe God has been preparing me for a specific work. My years as a Student Pastor, Executive Pastor, and Lead Pastor have each prepared me for the culmination of what God has called me to do: plant a church!
As a pastor, each time God calls you to a work, it is met with an opportunity for faith. It is at this intersection of calling and faith that will determine if we enter into God’s blessing or spend years wandering in the wilderness. The greater the calling, the greater faith will be required. Planting a new church is a high calling that will require matched faith.
As an architect, I still have a dream to contribute to the skyline. However, the skyline is not one of tall buildings but the Kingdom of God. It’s a skyline where heaven and earth meet, a place where the divine and humanity are united in Christ, a place where the gospel and life come together, … a grace point.
More details coming soon about Grace Point Church
in Lake Norman, North Carolina!
I am sitting in my hotel room in Louisville after a long day in board meetings with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. It was an exciting day of planning and coordinating as we look at what God has been doing and is doing across our state in the life of Kentucky Baptists. There is a growing desire to see a move of God in Eastern Kentucky with upcoming events such as "Hope for the Mountains." That desire grows from leaders within our Kentucky Baptist Convention who have partnered with those who have a heart for proclaiming the Gospel in that region. In fact, the buzz words that I hear frequently in Baptist life today is "Gospel Conversations." As we have discussion about training our church congregations in sharing the Gospel, it occurred to me the challenge we have before us in our churches. Because of our sinful nature, none of us need to attend a seminar on how to have "Gossip Conversations." Because it is our sinful nature, this is where people will naturally drift. In contrast, we must be intentional and offer training on how to have "Gospel Conversations." Unfortunately, many pastors are overwhelmed with putting out fires from "Gossip Conversations" that they will have less time to devote to training, equipping, and actually having "Gospel Conversations." The thought occurred to me... if we spent half of the effort into sharing the Gospel as we put into sharing gossip, we could win a community to Christ!
One of our KBC leaders shared an illustration that we naturally drift away from evangelism. He explained that if a pastor doesn't make a hospital visit that people will complain. He gave several examples of things that church members would complain about if the pastor does not do them (I could have offered a few more examples). However, no one complains if we don't knock on doors to share the Gospel. While there are a few in our church that would rather have Gossip Conversations over Gospel Conversations, I believe there are many more who are eager to covenant together for the sake of the Gospel and make Jesus the central focus of our conversations. Let's speak words of life, not words of destruction.
What were your conversations like today? Let's have Gospel Conversations NOT Gossip Conversations.
Below is a resource for your personal worship...
Sing or listen to the hymn "Wonderful Words of Life." I am praying wonderful words of life over my church family.
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life;
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life.
Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty:
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Christ, the blessed One, gives to all, wonderful words of life;
Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life.
All so freely given, wooing us to heaven:
Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life.
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify forever:
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SONG.
God's word begins with "head knowledge." We sometimes dismiss "head knowledge" as unimportant simply because we believe "heart knowledge" seems better. However, "head knowledge" is essential to our faith. You cannot have faith in something that you know nothing about. The problem isn't "head knowledge," but problems do arise when all we have is "head knowledge." Our faith begins with knowledge of God's word.
Where does it go from there? Our "head knowledge" must then be moved to "heart knowledge." Your meditation of Scripture will move God's word from "head knowledge" to "heart knowledge." When we eat, we cannot simply chew our food and then spit it out and expect to gain nourishment. We must consume the food. It must move from our mouth to our stomach. In the same way, when we read God's word, we cannot simply chew on God's word and allow it to remain in our minds. When we meditate upon Scripture, it is the process of moving what we have placed in our minds into our hearts. Biblical meditation is to fill your mind with Scripture and allow it to move to your heart. When we fail to move "head knowledge" to "heart knowledge," then we become prideful. The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 8:1 that "knowledge puffs up."
Interestingly, "heart knowledge" is not the final destination either. Once God's word has become the meditation of our heart, it must move to our feet. Pastor Christopher recently shared this quote, "Missions is really nothing but worship that tied its shoes. It is worship that kept going, that continued to its logical conclusion." We "tie our shoes" when we tithe. We "tie our shoes" when we share the Gospel. Here's the problem, many in our church pews have never learned to tie their shoes. They depend on others to tie their shoes for them. Just as "knowledge puffs up" when it fails to move from the head to the heart, our faith is dead when it fails to move from the heart to our feet. James 2:17 declares, "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." What type of fruit does a dead tree produce? Exactly! It doesn't produce fruit. We are called to produce lasting fruit for the Kingdom of God. This task will never occur if we don't tie our shoes!
What step can you take to begin learning to tie your own shoes? Here are six Spiritual HABITS that I have identified that can help you "tie your own shoes"...
Hang Time with God: Daily time reading God's word and in prayer.
Accountability in a Small Group: Join a group of like-minded believers who are committed to God's word.
Bible memorization: Meditate on God's word.
Involvement in Ministry & Mission: Every believer has a ministry in the church and a mission in the world.
Tithing: Biblical stewardship begins with giving God the first fruits of all your increase. Have you trusted Him with 10% of the first fruits of your income?
Sermon Application: After each sermon ask, "What does God want me to do in response to hearing the word?"
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."