We’re in the middle of a several-week series called Topical Tuesdays, where you pick the topic and I make up answers.  You can add your topic / question to the list by commenting on this post.  Today’s question was submitted by the Summit’s Student Pastor, Jason Gaston:

What was the thing that made you decide that being the Pastor of Connections was the THING FOR YOU? walk us through the process from your dreams in seminary, youth pastoring to now being the Connections Pastor at The Summit Church.

So you see, I lost this bet.  And then…

No, actually, this is the (relatively brief) version of the story:

January ’93: I marry my high school sweetheart.

February ’93: I take a job as “Youth Associate” at a small-ish church in West Tennessee, my very first ministry position.

1993-2000: Serve that church, plus my home church, in various student ministry roles, from The Guy Who Cuts Out Clip Art For The Youth Newsletter, to The Guy Who Still Does That But Now Has The Option To Ask OTHER People To Do That As Well.

August ’00: The Franks fam packs up life in Tennessee and heads to seminary in North Carolina.

October ’00 – Shortly After October ’00: Serve as very part time youth guy at a very small-ish church in the very northern part of North Carolina.  Low point of the ministry was when I put together my traditional camp compilation video and a kid yells, “Where are our VOICES?  Why did you replace them with a SOUNDTRACK?”  When I wanted to put a ball point pen in their skull rather than love them and serve them, I knew that my days were numbered and that maybe…just maybe…God had a different plan for me than what I’d thought.  (You should know that student ministry was my first love.  I thought I’d retire as a student pastor, being the first guy ever to pay a summer camp deposit with a Social Security check.)

January ’02: Discovered this church called Homestead Heights with a brand new pastor called J.D.

March ’02: Joined Homestead, got involved, led a group, volunteered, fell in love with the people.

November ’02: Was approached by Rick Langston, who told me that the church was creating a new position called “Assimilation Pastor.”  Wanted to know two things: (1) Would I be willing to meet with him and J.D. to talk about taking the job, and (2) Would I be willing to post flyers around Southeastern’s campus, thereby alerting my competition of the available job?  (I think that was a test of my sanctification.  For the record: I hung the flyers in well-lit, well-traveled areas…812 miles away from the campus.)

And this was where the rubber met the road.  Initial conversations & interviews with Rick and J.D. centered around the idea that this would be a one-year commitment.  I was in my last year of seminary, and I had plans of heading back to Tennessee after graduation.  As the conversations progressed, it became incredibly evident that this would not be a one-year gig.  This would be something to build, to invest in, and to commit to.

All of that led to a crisis of belief for my wife and I.  Were we really finished with student ministry?  Did I really want to venture down this road that was entirely new and largely unknown?  Were we really ready to cut ties back home?  Did we really want our kids growing up to believe that North Carolina barbecue was normal?!?

The tipping point came during a Wednesday night prayer meeting.  J.D. told the story of a girl who had attended the Summit (as the church was now known) once or twice.  Because of some incredibly difficult circumstances in her life, she ended up taking her life.  When J.D. asked us to group up and pray for her, Merriem and I both verbalized the same thought: That didn’t have to happen. She should have gotten connected.  She should have been known.  She should have been loved.  That’s not the way that church is supposed to work.

It was then that I knew that God was nudging me towards this idea of connecting people…to relationships, to ministry, to purpose, to hope.  What I had been doing as a student pastor, he was now calling me to do for the church at large.  I said yes to the church, the church thankfully said yes to me, and now you know the rest of the story!