My days at Fellowship Memphis began at Kingsbury High School. I was a young resident charged with helping our volunteers who had, for years, been a vital part of that school’s transformation from a failing school to a thriving one. Some of my most treasured memories in ministry center on Kingsbury. It’s where dozens of Fellowship folks showered hundreds of students with the love of Jesus—lending our presence, our tutoring, our teacher brunches, our block parties, our pep rallies, our campus cleanup days, and, when our kids needed it—our dollars too. I didn’t preach much for our church in those days. But every afternoon at Kingsbury, FM people joined hands—black, white, Asian, Latino, and Hispanic hands—to preach sermons that were seen rather than heard. And we preached plenty. This is the Fellowship Memphis I know.
I get asked often—“Why are you coming back to Fellowship?” The answers I’ve rehearsed might sound impressive. After all, this is the place where I met my bride, cut my teeth in multi-ethnic preaching and leading, helped launch an outpost, and discovered the mastery that is low-and-slow BBQ. Memphis is where my research, which focuses on pastoral leadership in the Civil Rights movement, might thrive and have an eventual platform for further scholarship. Memphis is where my son, who seemingly has inordinate levels of testosterone, can have room to play ball, hunt, fish, and run. Memphis is where my wife, whose heart is bigger than the ocean, can have the environment to do what she loves—take care of Cam and I, and when there’s any time left, she’ll get to love women with the hope of the gospel. To be sure, all of these were reasons we felt Memphis was right for us. But the answer for our return is simple—The Lord said GO. Go. Because there is more work to be done and more memories to be made.
As a historian, the memories of what makes FM special fueled our discernment process. I remembered Kingsbury days. I remembered Memphis Union Mission days. I remembered small group meetings. I remembered a diverse elder team made up of some of my best friends in the world. I remembered how fun it is to work with JB and the team. I remembered China trips with Soup. I remembered Honduras trips with Point of Impact. I remembered about 200 breakfasts I’ve enjoyed at the Arcade with 20-something year old dudes trying to figure out godliness and manhood. I remembered 28 folks who, twelve years ago, dreamt big about a gospel-centered church that championed discipleship, racial reconciliation, legalism, etc. I remembered 12 years of RICH history that celebrates unheard of achievements for the Body of Christ in our city. And lastly, I remembered people. Yes—people! Because for the pastor—people are our business. Then we looked ahead. I dreamed about shepherding and preaching the Bible to a people we love DEARLY. I thought about standing next to our staff leaders in their lives as well as their ministries. I thought about how life should be an adventure for Christ and nothing else. That’s what did it for us. I’ll sum it up this way—we came back to help continue what has begun here. Reflecting upon a lifetime of Kingdom work, Paul charged Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” We’ve learned a whole lot from Fellowship Memphis. We’ve come back to continue the work. May many adventures be had and many victories won for the cause of Christ–Love y’all.