On Sunday,March 11th, First Baptist unanimously affirmed Rev. Chris Cherry as our new Associate Pastor of Youth and Families. Watch or read below for Chris’ testimony from the service. And read more about Chris if you haven’t already!
When Alan first told me that I would have this chance to speak today, I was genuinely hoping he was going to tell me it happened after the vote. I just felt like that would be safer for everybody, but no. So I asked him, “Well, what do you want me to talk about?” You know, I’m pretty good at talking about baseball, Harry Potter, theology, or even my dog. Alan had other ideas.
The first thing he said was, “You can tell your story.” It even says “Faith Story” right here in the bulletin. I thought about that idea for a while, but I have no idea how to go through all of that in less than five minutes. I grew up in church, my family is full of seminary degrees and vocational ministers, yet I’m still learning and growing everyday. My story is one of seeking and risking and discovering. And honestly, the most interesting parts of my story come from the times I’ve struggled. Those ups and downs have been incredibly important in my life, but there’s way too much there to unpack if any of us want to eat lunch today.
The next thing Alan said was, “You can talk about your call to ministry.” But again, that was a process that unfolded over several years. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot, an architect, or the shortstop for the St Louis Cardinals, but eventually all those things fell away. And so I was left wondering and searching as a young high schooler. The turning point for me came on a high school retreat when I was a sophomore, and it changed the entire direction of my life. If you want to hear that story one day, I’d be happy to share it, but my call to ministry is more than that one moment and I learn more about it with every step I take.
I think I have a hard time with the idea of writing a faith story or a call narrative because it seems to imply that those events happened in the past and that they’re complete. Almost as if they’re under glass at a museum and can be studied. But if there’s one thing my faith has taught me over the years it’s that we’re always on a journey. No matter who you are, where you come from, what you believe, we’re all on a journey.
We’re all learning.
We’re all growing.
We’re all doubting.
We’re all seeking.
We’re all asking.
I love youth ministry because youth understand that better than any body else. Youth don’t hold in their questions. Youth talk about their doubts. And youth break down our typical faith boxes. And then, when youth set up new frameworks for what a life of faith can look like, their ideas are almost always better, more engaging, more relational, and more authentic.
Our faith is most real and most alive when we take it out of the box and wrestle with it. I’m a minister today because many of the people I’ve met on my journey taught me how to wrestle with my faith, so I’m not interested in giving youth easy answers. I’m a minister today because I want to help equip youth with the tools they need to find answers for themselves. I want to help youth engage the world around them. I want to help youth discover their voice. I want to help youth learn how to find their passion and to connect those passions with what God is already doing all over the world.
To the youth in the room, I had a great time meeting many of you last night. I am excited about getting to know you better, having lots of fun, and journeying through life together. We will build an inclusive space that values your voices, allows you to lead, and helps faith come to life. Many people view youth as the future of the church, but I’m telling you, you are the lifeblood of the church. You bring energy, you bring a fresh approach, and you bring unique gifts that only young people have.
I’m excited for the opportunity to serve at First Baptist Greensboro because this feels like a community of authenticity that will embrace and incorporate the voices, passions, and journeys of youth. This feels like a community of justice that is ready to lead and to welcome and to love. And this feels like a community of faith where my wife and I can raise our daughter.
It would be an honor and a privilege to answer God’s call by journeying alongside your youth and serving within this congregation.