Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview Amy McPherson. Amy IS what a minister looks like!
Amy, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My ministry journey with the Lord has been quite an adventure. Although I may be ordained Baptist, I was not raised in a Baptist church or home. In fact, I did not even know that there was such a denomination until college. I was born in Madison, Wisconsin and raised Roman Catholic. I had my First Communion, and I went through Confirmation so somewhere within the Roman Catholic Church, I am still probably “on the books.” I still remember going to my first “confession” ever with a priest prior to my Confirmation. He asked me if there was anything I needed to “unburden” myself of and confess to God. By his laughter, I take it my response was not one that he typically received. I told him, “Thanks, but we’ve talked, and we’re good.” The look on his face was priceless. He replied with a smirk, “So you’ve talked . . . and you’re good?” To which I answered, “Yes, but may I ask you a question? What’s it like being a priest? Do you like what you do?” A broad smile now stretched across his face, “Why yes, yes I do like being a priest. Most people don’t ask me that. Thank you.” We went on to have a great conversation.
My interaction with the priest was not surprising to my mom, an incredible prayer warrior. It is my mom, Geri McPherson, who taught my sisters and me the core faith, who Jesus really was, and how he wanted to be our friend. We were told that we never had to go through anyone to talk to God; we should talk to Jesus like a friend, but with respect. My mom says that I have had the gift of discernment since the age of four. I felt God calling me to serve in ministry at the age of fourteen, yet the church was led by a man, and I was not a man. I decided that I would volunteer and teach Sunday School; that would be how I served in ministry.
Well I don’t have to tell you that God has an incredible sense of humor. I finally answered the call to go to Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, to equip and prepare to serve in ministry ten years after working at IBM, Allscripts, and other companies. I thought my mom would be shocked when I told her, but instead of her jaw dropping, mine did. She just looked at me and said, “It’s about time.” My sisters and brother-in-law had similar responses. Apparently all of my friends and family knew, but as my mom put it, “God had to reveal this to you in His time.” Motherly wisdom at its best.
I was so blessed to serve at Falls Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and to be mentored by the now late and beloved pastor and friend, Dr. Rev. Terry Ashe. He insisted that I preach; that I get in the pulpit. Without his encouragement and support, I never would have been allowed to preach. He gave me a wonderful gift; the opportunity to find my voice and use it. The members of Falls Baptist Church became like family to me, and though they are a Southern Baptist church, they embraced me and ordained me to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I truly have been blessed. I have had the honor and privilege of serving at Living Water Christian Chinese Church, not once, but twice; serving at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church as their faith and spiritual formation minister, and being endorsed as a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship chaplain. I marvel at how the Lord moves and directs our paths. God has directed mine to Bonn, Germany where I currently serve as the associate pastor of the American Protestant Church Bonn. We are a Christ-centered, multi-denominational, and multinational community of believers from over thirty nations. In the past six months I have worked to restructure the children’s ministry, built the youth ministries from scratch, re-dreamed the dream with the young adult and adult ministries, provided pastoral care, preached, started a women’s ministry, and am now getting ready to lead a missions team to serve at Casa Ioana Orphanage in Romania during Holy Week. Serving in ministry is a great adventure. I have learned to expect the unexpected with joy and anticipation. Praise the Lord, God is not finished yet!
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
I love seeing when people “get it;” when a passage of scripture comes alive to them and is real. It is no longer abstract thought or conjecture. It is like Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and the events that followed. The scales that had once covered Paul’s eyes fell off, restoring his physical sight, but more importantly symbolizing his new spiritual sight. He now saw Jesus. He knew who He was. Paul finally “got it.” He was no longer limited to mere “head knowledge.” He now had “heart knowledge.” The connection between head and heart had been made. That is what I love to see, to be a witness to; people coming to faith in Christ and the Bible coming alive to them in new and exciting ways.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Self-care and maintaining healthy boundaries. Both of these will be on-going goals that I will continue to work on regardless of where the Lord calls me. Being self-aware is critical. In ministry it is so easy to be pulled multiple directions at the same time. The pastor I currently serve with and I actually sat down and created a chart for Sundays. He said, “You’re needed in five places at the same time.” We divided up the Sundays and allocated where I would serve; teaching youth Sunday, children’s ministry, children’s sermon, communion, and preaching. While I begin each Sunday with the entire congregation and lead in various parts of the service, we mapped out which area I would serve in every Sunday through June.
Healthy communication is critical, and so are gentle “push-backs.” Sometimes I have to give a gentle push-back to maintain healthy boundaries and not overcommit. So the next time someone comes up to you and says, “Wouldn’t it be great it we . . . .(feel free to fill in the blank!)?” simply respond, “Yes, that is a wonderful idea. Why don’t you (please insert whatever they told you).”
Remember the chapter on “The Good Samaritan” in Dykstra’s Images of Pastoral Care. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. The Samaritan helped the man left beaten at the side of the road, and paid the manager of the Inn to take care of him while he was away. The Samaritan still completed the business he needed to do, and then returned. He ensured that the man was taken care of, but still went about the business of living his own life. Too easily we as ministers sacrifice our own lives, time with family and friends, because we do not establish healthy boundaries.
What is the best ministry advice you have been given?
The best ministry advice I ever received was from Dr. Rev. Nathan Morton; a dear friend, colleague, and former Campbell Divinity School classmate. He had me repeat it after him one day: “There is only one Savior of the church. His name is Jesus Christ, and I am not Him.”
You cannot save a church. You cannot save a ministry. Only God can do that.