On 1/25/2015 John Gardner, Jr. was ordained as a Pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church.
It has been a thrill to watch John grow in his faith and in responsibilities at Stevens Street Church. He started attending as a Fall 2000 Freshman at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. The church had two services on Sunday mornings in their second worship center. During John’s college years, the church went to three morning services. As a musician, meant rehearsing early, playing for the first and second services, attending Sunday School and then playing again for the third service.
The third Worship and Education Center (pictured below) was supposed to get everyone together, but as the church continued to grow, by the time the Worship Center was completed, it opened with two services.
After college graduation, the church hired John (part-time at first) to be their Instrumental Director and Administrator of the School of Performing Arts.
A few months ago, with the departure of the Worship Pastor, John assumed those duties on top of what he was already doing. Recognizing that he had proven himself during his 15-yr involvement, along with his near completion of a Master of Divinity Degree in Apologetics at Southern Seminary, John was ordained as one of six pastors.
John honored ME by asking me to speak for “@2-3 minutes” to close the ordination service. Here’s an approximate transcription of what I shared:
Toward the end of a previous century when it was time for college selection, we thought we had done our due diligence as John had visited campuses and participated in music camps and clinics in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
He had not considered Tech, however, until two professors from two other schools in two different states suggested he consider Tennessee Tech.
Anybody think that is a coincidence?
So Joan and I loaded our college-mobile and helped John move into a school we knew little about and where he knew no one….in a town we’d never heard of – 500 miles away from Huntington, Indiana.
But John visited your church. Not long after, I get a call:
“Hey Dad, two men from Stevens Street visited me in my dorm room, how cool is that?”
He started attending your church, eventually moving his membership. I get another call:
“Hey Dad, I asked the people at Stevens Street if I could start an instrumental ensemble to play in their worship services.”
How’s that working for you?
[…as I glance over to the 20+ piece orchestra section of the platform]. As a student, John started the instrumental ensemble that has grown into the current worship orchestra, which includes a drum set, two guitars, two violins, 1-2 keyboards and about 15 wind instrumentalists. He also rehearses and conducts the 80-member choir.
You helped and supported John all through his college years. As graduation approaches, I get this call:
“Hey Dad, they want to start a School of Performing Arts and they want me to help.”
How’s that working for you?
John has been Director of the School of Performing Arts, which now trains over 150 students.
So, Stevens Street, as a parent of a long distance college student entrusted to your care, I submit to you that:
- When you visit a student on campus
- Provide a meal
- [Church currently has up to 350 college students on a Sunday morning and then offers them a Sunday lunch following the morning service.]
- Offer a placetoplug in and be a part
- [There is a full-time College Pastor]
- Provide a place to call a church home away from home
…you never know what will happen. In John’s case, you have now been a part of his life for about half his life, and most of his adult life.
And as you ordain Pastor John, you are not ordaining him to send him out — you are not hiring him in from somewhere else. You have enabled him to serve you from within. In a significant way, John is a product of Stevens Street church.
I thank God for YOU.
As a parent, I thank YOU.