I started preaching when I was eleven but I did not start pastoring until I was eighteen. I think, because I had found sermon preparation and delivery to be relatively straight forward I assumed pastoring would be just as straight forward. Big mistake.
In my first pastorate (back in Kentucky I was called "The Preacher" with Boy tacked on by most of the older believers in the church) I served a small church in the rural area. Most everyone in the community knew everyone and that meant they knew which ones went to church and which ones were destined for an alternate eternity. Those "facts" were never expected to change. So when George came to church one Revival evening with his wife everyone assumed he was just keeping the peace at home.
George was over 6'6", earned his living as a horse trader, and, was known to be more than a bit rowdy on the weekends. As his hand engulfed mine that first night and his wife said, "George wants to talk to you. He needs savin'" I realized how far out of my depth I really was. For the next six months I spent several hours most weeks riding with George on his rounds. He spent a good deal of the conversations ending his sentences with, "Pardon my French, Preacher" and I spent the time praying God would call someone else to witness to this man whose life was the polar opposite of mine.
I remember the day, after a particularly powerful message on salvation (well adequate anyway) when George came to me and asked, "Well?"
"Well what?" I asked, searching my mind for anything I might have done to make this giant of a man upset with me.
"When can I?"
"When can you what?"
"When can I get saved? Ain't you supposed to tell me when its time?"
I stopped all the people who were still in the parking lot and told them we were headed to the Primitive Baptist Church which was one of two churches in the county with a baptistry and winter is not a good time to baptize in the creek. I learned that the hard way, another story at another time.
When I came out of the changing room in my rob I noticed George was not changed. "Did you change your mind, George? If you don't change you are going to have to go home wet."
"Can't Preacher, these clothes is God's now, so is my time, my money, and, my boots." So I buried it all in the waters of baptism and when that bear of man came up out of the grave he came up in all new clothes, with only God's time on his wrist, God's money in His wallet, and God's shoes for carrying the Gospel of Peace.
I almost burst into tears as I hugged him and prayed silently, "Oh, Lord, make me like George."