Often times in life we go through seasons where we are engaged in something that we enjoy to do and we find satisfaction in those endeavors. We may take up a new hobby that we are passionate about, but after some period of time, our interest fades and we stop for a variety of reasons. Time passes but suddenly that passion is rekindled and we pick it back up again. I kind of feel that way when it comes to writing because for about 5 years, several years ago, I needed to do a newsletter every couple of weeks so I wrote in this space called "Ralph's Corner." I don't know how regularly I'll write but I hope it will be more often than it has been, maybe not as much as it was in days gone by. I'll leave it to the Lord to guide me and we'll see how it goes. I do find great satisfaction in sharing my heart and I enjoy sharing words of encouragement the Lord gives me in written form if anyone cares to read it. There have been some things going on in my life that kind of dried up that desire to write but recently my desire and need to write have been rekindled. So I'm dusting off, cleaning off the rusty "pen" and refilling the ink so to speak through the aid of modern technology and computers.
In 1998 in McAllen, Texas, on a hot summer afternoon driving home from work, God clearly confirmed His call to me to vocational ministry as a pastor. It wasn't something I wanted in my younger days growing up in a pastors home. But as I walked with God and grew in my faith as a disciple through the ministries of FBC McAllen and under the preaching and teaching ministry of Dr. Bill Sutton, God began grooming me for pastoral ministry. That call of God began a journey and as Cheryl and I walked with God; that walk led us to North Carolina to seminary to prepare for ministry. We bloomed for a season there of 3 years and sunk roots even though we knew God would someday move us to a field of full time service. We joined Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, got plugged in and I began teaching Sunday School; Cheryl worked in AWANAS and we loved and ministered to people while preparing for full time ministry. We established friendships there that last to this day. We loved our Pastor, Bill Bowyer, who loved on us and encouraged us. He modeled tremendous Pastoral leadership and a passion for missions that still impacts me today. It was sad for us and hard to say good bye to our brothers and sisters to go plant a church in Littleton, New Hampshire. But we had to obey God who once again came calling in the summer of 2001.
Our walk with Christ landed us far from family and friends in a pioneer area for the Gospel in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire with the express purpose of planting a church to the glory of God. By the grace of God we planted Crossroads Baptist Church or "Crossroads Church" as it's known locally. We bloomed where God planted us in Littleton and loved serving the Lord there and reaching people with the Gospel. What was awesome about it was that our brothers and sisters from Wake Cross Roads in North Carolina came on mission trips way up there to help us. What joy they brought us and what a blessing and encouragement they were in those early days. Brothers and sisters from FBC McAllen came in force several times nearly 2500 miles across the country to join God in the work He was doing through us. We saw God do miracle after miracle in New Hampshire changing life after life for the glory of God. I went there to pastor and my dream and my plan was to start and pastor the same church for 40 years or something like that. But God had other plans! It was hard for me when God found me and once again clearly called me to pack up my family another time and move, this time in 2006 to serve as an Associate Pastor with Pastor David Lino in Houston, Texas.
Oh the heartache and gut wrenching goodbyes we had leaving Littleton and it was brutally hard for the saints there we left behind. But we had no choice! God called with another assignment and we knew it was His will for us so we moved. The new season of assignment lasted 2 1/2 years helping a new church plant get from the 2 1/2 year mark to the 5 year mark. We bloomed in Houston and loved our church family at Faith Family Baptist Church in Kingwood. We still have warm relationships and love those saints dearly as we served the Lord together. Again, we saw God do miracle after miracle reaching people as He birthed and grew a new church. It was a surprise to me in some ways but not in others when God started calling my number again. At the end of 2008 God called me to another assignment; this time to serve as the senior pastor of a growing church called Calvary Baptist Church in Bel Air, Maryland. The Green family circus packed up again and moved back across the country and sunk roots in Maryland because home is where you hang your hat and where God puts you. I'm still a Ravens fan and Orioles fan. You can bet one of the first things I did this morning was check the score from last nights game as the O's beat the Angels 6-2 on the west coast! For 5 years we labored, served and loved that church and community. Again God blessed and the impact for the kingdom of God from our time in Maryland will last for eternity. We continue warm friendships with many of the saints there as we’ve done every place we've been. We pray for one another and share life together. Thankfully through the aid of cell phones and social media platforms we have stayed connected. God drew my ministry in Maryland to a close at the end of 2013 and for a season we didn't know where God was going to place us next.
God was preparing us but gave us time to rest as we'd been in a full ministry sprint by that point for 12 years in full time pastorates and really 15 years if you count the 3 years of sleepless work, study and ministry while in seminary. Cheryl and I were exhausted. Rachel & Ginny were married and having grandkids (whew hoo!), Beth was finishing college and Ralph and Garrett were in High School with Ralph about to graduate and enter the military. It was hard to be patient and wait on God, not knowing what the next chapter would bring. Looking back on that season, I am truly thankful God allowed us to rest. I realized I was so tired from the riggers and deep stress of pastoral ministry having been through some deep waters. So tired in fact I was seriously considering leaving the pastorate and taking a job in the secular world. The thought of being a faithful Sunday School teacher, supporting and encouraging a pastor had a degree of appeal to me. I know in my heart that you can never go backwards with God; but I remembered how much fun ministry was when I served as a volunteer. That may not sound very spiritual but it's true. Of course Satan would have loved to lead me down that path so the spiritual warfare going on in my heart was intense. Questions of doubt; questions of my leadership ability (or lack of it) rolled around in my head as I wrestled with the fact that I had no job, no ministry prospects and after 5 years still hadn’t sold our home in Texas. The corporate world was something I knew before God called me to ministry; I thought if I went back to selling something we could survive. I really didn’t want to uproot Garrett yet again. While this spiritual wrangling was going on; God blessed me with a season where Cheryl and I spent nearly every moment together, interrupted briefly by her continued work part time then as a nurse. Every day was a date day even if the “date" was going to Sonic for happy hour - let’s just say that the Route 44 Diet Coke with lime was consumed a little too much… Cheryl and I drew even more close - something I didn’t think was possible.
Thankfully God doesn’t ever quit on us! While I felt like a worn out old tool in a forgotten tool box buried in an old garage; God knew exactly where I was and what my skills are and how to use me. As the “Master Craftsman”, He didn’t need to use me at that point and just allowed me to rest; think and pray. The great thing about God is that His Word speaks to us daily if we’ll just open it, read it, study it, listen to God and obey God as He speaks. While I persevered in my quiet time and Bible Study, even though I was in a difficult place in my spirit and Satan was beating me up; I read one morning Romans 11:29 “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” 9 words, a simple but profound word from God to my battered and bruised spirit. I felt the warmth of Jesus’ love envelope me; like a warm spring sun that warms your back and knocks the chill off. I knew the corporate world was not what God had for me. I knew He’d called me as a pastor - something that took two careers, one in law enforcement and another in business as part of God’s growing process in my case for pastoral ministry. I knew none of that experience would be wasted by God. While I didn’t know where God would put me; I had confidence He’d get around to it when He was good and ready, when He knew I was ready.
Cheryl was praying in her quiet time that God wouldn’t make it a multiple choice test; like we’d experienced before moving to Maryland from Texas. (I had three churches, all named Calvary Baptist Church in three parts of the country who were having discussions with me. I jokingly told Cheryl I didn’t know where we were going but I was pretty sure it was going to be to Calvary!) God answered Cheryl’s prayer with one option and called me to Moundsville Baptist Church in the northern panhandle of West Virginia to follow a pastor who served here for 47 years. A crazy assignment from a human point of view - like Joshua following Moses. Besides they are Steelers fans around here and I’m a Ravens fan but that didn’t scare them away. God called me to serve here and that ministry began on our 29th wedding anniversary - Sunday June 8th, 2014. We have loved the people, God has blessed us with a great house that has been a great gathering place for the church and for our now grown family. We’ve seen God do some great things and some lives impacted I believe for His honor and glory.
Everywhere God has moved me I’ve always gone with a long term view and have planned to stay till Jesus comes. I’ve led our family to “bloom where we’re planted.” So why am I sharing all of this history of God’s working, moving and calling in our lives? Because I need to demonstrate how God has consistently and patiently worked in life of the Green family. You see God has in fact called me yet again to move. This time to serve as the first pastor of a large church plant in the Corpus Christi Texas area at ChristCentral Baptist Church. For those who know us from previous ministry and church fields we’ve served; you probably don’t find this news shocking at all. You’ve kept up with us and continued to love and pray for us. You may even have a bit of excitement stirring in your hearts to hear the Green family circus is on the move again and you are looking forward to seeing what God will do in this next chapter. (I’m not arrogant enough to believe that’s the case but one might hope so. 😀)
For my current Moundsville Baptist Church family; this news has crushed many of you and for that I am profoundly saddened and sorry. Here in Marshall County, we are a stable close-knit community. A small town where everyone knows everyone, is related to someone and where people are born, raised and spend their entire lives. Sons follow in their father’s footsteps in the coal mine industry or the plant - whichever one it is and the name it goes by today. You’ve never had a pastor leave you before. You are used to a 47 year tenured pastor who is still a member of our church, faithfully teaches Sunday School weekly and is in church every Sunday. That is your “normal.” You are used to the stability of family and long-term friend relationships that living in this corner of the world affords and it is a good thing. The local papers routinely advertise family reunions happening all over our community and everyone in your family will be there because they are all close by.
I’ve never really known that. I followed my dad in his ministry roles being born in Indiana while dad was in seminary; to Piney View WV, to Ravenna Ohio, to Elkview WV and then on to Richmond Virginia for my junior high and high school years. The longest place Cheryl and I have ever lived together in our marriage was for the first 13 years in McAllen before God called me into the ministry. So to my current MBC church family; please understand I truly was not looking for this. God found me and has called me to a new place of service.
The best analogy I can give you is in the plant situations you all are familiar with. The industrial plants here are huge! Miles and miles of piping; electrical lines; mechanical structures, conveyor belts, cogs, gears, machinery and most importantly teams of people with different jobs, skills and areas of expertise and responsibility. You are very familiar with a foreman coming to get a team of welders or steel workers to go repair a break or build on in a different section of the plant. You are used to being laid off for a season while a shutdown takes place and the union shop gets you on in a different plant. You need to view this change God is making in our lives in that same fashion.
God has a need to use me and my meager skills elsewhere and I have no choice but to obey Him. Not only does God have the right to make this change; He has all the authority to make this call as the Head of the church! If I ignore God’s call; it will not go well for me or Moundsville Baptist Church! Some of you feel like I betrayed you by not telling you ahead of time. You can’t believe you were hearing of this for the very first time this past Sunday when I announced my resignation. You’re in shock, some of you are angry, a very real stage of the grieving process. I get it. That’s why I’m writing this very long article because I love you and I deeply care for how you are feeling, your emotions and distress this is causing you. I am deeply sorry if you feel that way. I literally did not know for sure this would be a reality until the church in Corpus affirmed God’s call to become their first pastor when they voted to call me with a 99% vote on July 30th. I shared the news with you the very next Sunday. The Scriptures tell us we are not to put a stumbling block in our brother or sisters way. So how can I tell you I’m moving if I don’t know for sure? Why would I unsettle you and put doubt in your heart that I might be moving before it is a done deal in case the thing completely fell apart and never came to reality? I could never do that to you! Yes, I kept this possibility close to my chest with my family, a few very close ministry friends and believers I asked to pray with me about God’s leading. I did this precisely because we live in a small community and I know from experience the rumor mill can cause much damage with speculation and questions. Misunderstandings often take on a life of their own. My intentions were to protect you from unnecessary heartache and difficulty; but you all know as I’ve told you for weeks now, that I’ve always given God a blank check with my life.
A word of caution and encouragement is in order. First, be careful in your grieving process that your anger does not become sinful by hanging on to it. If you do, in reality you are not angry with me; you are angry with God. God has confirmed His call for me to this new field of service directly from His word using Hebrews 11:11-16 during my quiet time. I have no doubt I’m to be the first pastor of this new church plant. I’ve known we’d be involved in church planting again someday I have supported the church planting process in other ministry locations; but it’s taken 11 years for God prepare me to do it again personally. Please come talk to me in the next week or so and I’ll be happy to share the story of what God has done if it will help you understand. My door is open, my phone is always on if you care to chat.
Secondly be encouraged! Everywhere I’ve pastored I still consider those saints, sheep God has entrusted to me. A change of ministry location doesn’t mean I can’t still care for you, pray for you if you call me with a need; message me on Facebook, send me an email or a text message. I faithfully pray for the needs my bothers and sisters share with me. I want that to continue with my MBC family but that’s up to you to pursue. You can also be encouraged that God may grant us the joy of working on mission partnerships and projects together possibly with RUHU or other places as we serve the Lord. Who knows how our great God will direct our paths? Maybe God will send a mission team from MBC to Corpus to join God in reaching the lost people there? Please know of my love for all of you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, He is your Savior, not a field hand named Ralph Green. Pray for us in transition & encourage us as we step out in faith once again in response to God’s call. Hoping I’ve knocked the dust off my “pen” & it won’t rust to encourage you; from my little corner of the world to yours…