Several years ago at Meet the Teacher Night, I met a sweet, tender-hearted, blond-haired, blue-eyed little kindergarten boy. He shyly waved hello as I stooped down to introduce myself to him. When I looked up, his parents stood together behind him, beaming so brightly they could’ve starred in a Colgate commercial. Really, they could’ve! And that’s how they have always been from that point on. Every time I see Heith and Kelsey Pike, they are smiling. No matter the circumstances.
When Kindergarten was over for the year, I was sad to see my friends, the Pikes, go on to first grade with their smiling faces.
I didn’t know that in a few years God would cross their path with the path of my precious church family in a big way.
Our church just happened to be searching for a Youth and Children’s Pastor, although in the works of the Lord, things don’t “just happen”. Heith’s name was mentioned, and my first thought was, “Heith? Why? He’s got a great job with a great company! Does he even want to be in the ministry?”
And the rest of the story, well…I think Heith tells it best, and he starts back a lot further than I do.
This is Heith and Kelsey’s story, told by Heith Pike, Associate Pastor and Youth/Children’s Pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
The Gradual Tug
God was preparing me for ministry my entire life, but I had no idea it was happening until my early twenties. As a matter of fact, I vividly remember telling a former classmate of mine (Jeff Oates) in our economics class in 11th grade that “being a pastor is the LAST thing on earth that I would want to do.”
God had very different plans.
He graciously gave me parents who raised me in church and taught me the importance of living a lifestyle of faith. As I grew older, God surrounded me with influential people who helped steer my life in the right direction spiritually, emotionally, and financially.Some of these people included my wife Kelsey, my parents, grandparents, brother, friends, a boss, pastors, and Sunday School teachers.You see, God was using people strategically in my life to mold me into the person who He envisioned.Looking back, I see my life like David’s. David spent his younger years being groomed by God.He was faced with many threats to his father’s flock. Those threats prepared him for the story that we all know and love, his victory over Goliath.What we tend to lose in life is a love for the process, an embracing of the preparation.We all want the big Victory in life, but few are willing to embrace the process. Anyways, back to the gradual tug…
A guy by the name of Andrew Cooper, a former co-worker, challenged me one day to explain to him exactly what I believed about my faith.I was 20 years old, and like a child trying to explain the intricacies of the brain, I fumbled over my words trying to explain this “faith” which I claimed to have in Jesus.The truth was, I couldn’t really tell him anything but that I loved Jesus because He died for me.Now I was saved when I was 7 years old, but I was still an immature Christian.God began to grow my interest in Him, and I began to study His word and have deep conversations with Andrew about life and the meaning and purpose of humanity.About this same time, we started to attend a church in Cullman, Alabama, called Desperation Church. Andy Heis, the pastor, became an integral part of the reason why I’m now in ministry. Our five years at Desperation were five of the best years of life.We experienced first hand what being the hands and feet of Jesus means. God began to show me that ministry was much bigger than a man behind a pulpit. Ministry is people, and I’m a people person.It was then that I began to feel the tangible call to ministry.
The Tangible Call…and the Wait
I can remember the very night that I felt the calling into ministry. My wife Kelsey and I were attending a Sunday night service at Desperation, just like any other Sunday night. I can’t even remember what the message was about, but I can remember crying through the entire service.
I’m not talking about the kind of crying where nobody around you notices…No, I’m talking about ugly face crying! I was weeping.
Only on a couple of occasions in my life can I remember crying like this. There was no obvious reasoning, at first. I cried like this for about 20 min.Kelsey kept staring at me! She had no idea what was going on. I just told her that I didn’t really understand it either, but I felt like God was calling me into full-time ministry. At the end of the message, I got up and went to Andy and told him about the thoughts that were rushing through my head and heart.
He told me to keep praying, studying, and preparing myself.
I’ll be honest and tell you that the wind was ripped out of my sails. I fully expected him to just say, “You can start tomorrow!” 🙂 I didn’t have a clue!
So I started to do just what he said… I began to read my Bible daily, and pray more. I began to witness to people and help people during hard times. And I waited. But, day after day, month after month, and year after year, I didn’t get any solid answer from God about the matter. I couldn’t understand why God was not opening doors for me. It would be three long years before I would get my answer.
Poor Kelsey, I think she feared for our livelihood during this whole process. At that time, we had been married a couple of years and had two very young boys, Colby and Caden, and would soon have our third child, the most beautiful girl in the entire world, Emma Grace Pike. There were so many unanswered questions during those three years. My emotions were unstable and that created a lot of uncertainty in Kelsey’s mind.
I had the best job a person could ask for. I met a man named Marty Hardin and his wife, Molly, who took Kelsey and me under their wing and began to mentor us and show us what marriage looked like, what financial management in marriage looked like, what ministry-life looked like, and what parenting looked like. Obviously, these are all things that we are taught growing up, but coming from someone else it all seemed new and exciting. Turned out that Marty was (and still is) the Director of Operations over Brasfield and Gorrie’s Equipment Division. Needless to say, God orchestrated this relationship to help a poor boy (me) out! I was 22 and Kelsey was 21, we had two children, a new home (with this thing they call a mortgage), and many other living expenses; and we were living on love.
So, I went to work for the best company imaginable in Brasfield and Gorrie (literally voted many years in a row as the best company to work for in Birmingham). It was then that I began to chase the American dream. I wanted to become successful and financially stable, but at the same time I still felt that real calling into ministry. There were many days when I came home telling Kelsey about a new position opening at work, or a successful transaction that day, or just gratification of how things were progressing in my career. There were also days when I would cry all the way to work because I was so burdened about being in ministry. I felt like my career was a waste of my life. I felt like I needed to be making a difference in the lives of people around me as a minister. My life was a roller coaster of emotions, and poor Kelsey, she was on the ride with me, not knowing what each day would hold.
After three years, I won’t say I had given up on going into full-time ministry, but I had come to the realization that there was nothing I could do to open doors that weren’t being opened by God. It seemed like once I reached the point where I was comfortable and accepted the fact that I would probably never get the opportunity to go into full-time ministry is when God brought me the absolute best option I could’ve asked for!
I’ll save you all the dialogue between my mom and me, but in a nutshell, one of her friends, Kim Kanaday, approached her about me interviewing for a position as Minister of Children and Youth/Associate Pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Corner, Alabama. This church is literally less than a mile from where I grew up and with people whom I’ve known my whole life and a pastor unlike any other I know. This was an opportunity I could’ve only dreamed about!
So, I interviewed, and compared to the other lofty resumes on the table, I thought to myself, “There is no way on earth you’ll land this job, unless it’s from God.”
Well, it was from God…They offered me the job, and I accepted.
That last sentence made it seem easy…There were weeks of interviews, questions, and details in that one sentence. And during that process I was looking back over my prayer journal and ran across a prayer I wrote one day asking God for specific things to take place. Until that day, I didn’t even realize He had answered all my prayers from 9 months earlier. I was blown away!
Don’t put God in a box. Dream big, Pray even bigger, and then prepare yourself for what God is about to do.
The Call and The Effects
People are going to be people. And most of the time, when God is doing something big, people don’t understand it and so they question everything about it. Naturally, when I accepted the position at Mount Zion, basically everybody who was anybody in my life told me I was crazy!
Heith, you have a family to take care of, how are you going to do that on a youth pastor’s salary.
Heith, you have an amazing job, you’d be crazy to leave.
Heith, you have a bright future in your career, you’re throwing that away if you leave.
Heith, you’re not ready for the ministry.
The list goes on for days. I learned the very important truth that doing God things is crazy most of the time. It’s not always the popular thing to do and it takes courage to follow God’s plans. Things like people’s opinions and the love of money are what keep normal people like you and me from living out the destiny that God has for us. In our situation, as always, God worked everything out, and we’re better now than before.
Since moving into the ministry, I have a new understanding of life. Life is about relationships. Our number one relationship should be with Jesus. Once that relationship is solid, then all the other relationships in our life will fall into place. One of the greatest benefits of being in the ministry is that it allows you to impact people. Life is no longer about how much money I can make or how others define me based on my success; Life is about helping people, just like Jesus helped people.
Some of those people I get to impact are my own family members. My relationship with my kids and my wife has changed for the better. For many years, my kids only saw me for a few hours at night before they went to sleep. I was up before them and didn’t get home until late. Now I wake them up in the morning, take them to school, stay home with them when they’re sick, keep them during bad weather, and I’m with them every day by 3:00pm thanks to Mount Zion’s After School Care Program. I attend all their field trips or parent days. I get to be a dad! All the time.As for my relationship with God, I’ll be very transparent, because I feel like too many people aren’t these days. In my first year of ministry my relationship with God deteriorated instead of thriving. This was one unexpected area where I struggled for a while. I told my pastor, Dr. Sammie Reid, that my relationship with God was stronger before ministry than it was in the ministry. I was studying the bible to find a passage to preach instead of studying the Bible because I love to spend time with God. He told me that he too had been through this early on and gave me some good advice. He said that if I would return to spending time with God out of desire instead of necessity, then I would have sermon material for years! I have found this to be true and I am forever grateful for a wise man like him to guide me in my walk with the Lord.
Again, I want to be transparent in hopes that this might help somebody else. My biggest struggle has been fear of failure. I am a people pleaser and I can’t stand for someone to be upset with me or unhappy with the way things have happened.You don’t have to look far in my past to see that I’ve made some very big mistakes and some that not many people know about, but these are things that haunt me from time to time. Things that I’m ashamed of and things that have hurt other people. At times, I let these things weigh me down and I get upset and feel unworthy to be in my position. I feel like people think I’m a hypocrite maybe and that I live a double life.
I think one of the most dangerous things that we do as a society is put ministers on a pedestal and hold them to a different standard. We are normal people with sin problems just like anybody else. It’s tough sometimes feeling like we need to be perfect. People can be flat-out mean sometimes and that’s been one of the hardest things to adjust to. But I can see now that my years at Brasfield and Gorrie prepared me even for this area of ministry. I am thankful for the times at Brasfield and Gorrie when I had to talk to mad (that’s an understatement) Superintendents about a mistake I made that cost the company x amount of dollars, and let’s just say that my tough conversations with people now don’t seem quite so bad.
I want to be successful for God, that’s all. And when I get down, it’s usually way down, and I feel like there’s not really anybody to turn to, because I am that person to everyone else. Thankfully I have a good support system and a wife who helps me through those times. My biggest struggle in ministry is myself.
By far, the greatest blessing of ministry so far has been seeing the change that God has done in our student’s lives. To see a student transform before your eyes is an amazing feeling and to know that God entrusted Kelsey and me with that task is a great blessing! I love these students with all my heart and I can’t imagine life without them. Some days I wonder if what I’m doing even matters, or if we’re just spinning our wheels, but then one of the students trusts me enough to talk to me about something critical in his/her life and it makes all the difference. These kids are in the most formative years of their lives and they need someone they can trust and be mentored by.
I thank God that person is me.
I thank Him for nudging me, making me wait, and continuing to equip me daily.
I thank Him for The Call.