Every week Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. Today we are excited to introduce Jayne Davis!
Jayne, tell us about your ministry journey.
I never really thought about going in to the ministry. Even when God’s calling began, I responded that it was a crazy idea. Politely, of course. I was a Russian major with plans to work abroad in foreign service. But during my senior year of college, I became increasingly concerned about the growing numbers of homeless men and women living on the streets around me. After a particularly powerful incident on the street one day, my life took a different turn. I joined the staff of the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City. After I married my husband, for several years we lived and worked with forty homeless men and women on the Lower East Side of Manhattan until we moved to my husband’s home state of North Carolina.
I continued in homeless ministry here in Wilmington, North Carolina, having negotiated with God that I would stay close to ministry, as long as it wasn’t becoming a pastor. I thought that was fair. Eventually, I became the executive director of a local non-profit, but God’s call to vocational ministry became more persistent. With three small children, and one soon to be on the way, I relented and made plans to go to divinity school, but I gave God three conditions for my enrollment–I would never be a Baptist. I would never work in a local church. And I would never work in Christian education.
For over fifteen years now I have been the minister of spiritual formation and, more recently, associate pastor–discipleship at First Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. The moral of this story is never tell God what you will never do. God has a vivid imagination and a strange sense of humor in guiding the path of our journey. Who else would think to call a girl from the Bronx to be a Baptist preacher in the Bible belt?
What are some of the greatest challenges of church ministry?
So much of ministry is scattering seeds. We create the environment for God’s Spirit to move and to work but we don’t get to control when and how that happens. There can be many days when we don’t get to see the fruits of our labor. But we persist believing that ministry is about showing up, being present and making God known—one act or encounter or conversation at a time. We rarely get to say, “It is finished.” But we know that we are part of a bigger story; that what we do contributes to God’s kingdom work in ways that we may never realize or understand.
What have been the greatest joys in ministry?
I love the ‘Ah ha’ moments of faith when we get to be a part of putting some pieces of the puzzle together or of helping someone to recognize God’s presence in their story. I love the privilege of walking alongside of people during some of life’s most challenging moments. I love sitting on the platform in worship and seeing all of the faces in front of me, knowing the joys and the sorrows of many and being humbled by their faith and inspired by their courage.
Who (or what) have been sources of encouragement for you as you have lived out your calling?
I don’t know how to begin to name all of the people who have encouraged me in living out my calling. Some have inspired me over a lifetime with their affirmation and some have had a profound impact in a single encounter, a timely word, an open door. I think what they all have in common is that they saw things in me that I didn’t or wouldn’t notice in myself and they gave voice to them in an affirmation of giftedness, an encouragement to persevere, a challenge of an opportunity or critique where I didn’t give my best.
Because of them, I try to speak life to others, noticing their gifts, stretching their imagination, challenging them to see more of who God may be calling them to be. Brief encounters with people I don’t know very well or in long-term relationships, Jesus did both. I think it is one of the things I love most about the coaching that I do, particularly in discipleship coaching and in coaching clergy. So much of life can drown out the persistent, ongoing call of God in our lives. But we get to help other to listen and to hear. What a privilege.