Eight years ago today, I preached my first sermon. I still have trouble accepting that so much time has passed, but I realize that my life has changed a lot since the first time I stepped into a pulpit. This post is going to focus on four of those changes.
1. I am much more comfortable in my own skin.
One of the main reasons that I was slow in acknowledging my call to ministry is that I knew that I did not fit the traditional description of an African American minister. African American preaching is generally emotional and
loud emphatic while I am generally stoic and soft-spoken. At the time, I was concerned about the way people would perceive me. Now, I am most concerned with being the authentic man who God created regardless of what people think of me. I try to make sure that everything I do springs forth from the creativity that God has placed within me. That’s why I feel comfortable with not fitting the traditional model of a young African American minister. I know that I my look and my sound are different than what most people would expect. (Yes, people get pretty thrown off by a generally soft-spoken guy with dreadlocks ministering from a pulpit even on the rare occasions that I choose to wear a suit.) Still, it doesn’t matter to me. After all, the Word of God is still the Word of God no matter how it is delivered.
2. My cousins and I sing better together now.
For most of my life, I had heard about my two singing cousins. As a result, I decided to get them to sing with me and a group of my friends during the service surrounding my first sermon. They were unable to make it to the rehearsal that I had organized for them, but I prayed about it and decided that I trusted them enough to let them sing anyway. Somehow, it worked out. (Truth be told, I should have been more concerned about some of the people who actually made it to rehearsal.) Since then, we sing together a few times per year. People occasionally suggest that the three of us should record. Only God knows if that will ever happen.
3. My singing voice has more range and control.
During the service for my first sermon, I sang “I Long To See You,” by Rizen right after I finished delivering the message. What people didn’t realize was that I actually had trouble hitting the high notes in the sing. The highest note unintentionally came out sounding like a gospel squall, which caused a lot of the church to jump to their feet in praise. (The same thing happened to me during the group song with my cousins and friends–“Great Is Your Mercy.”) I didn’t realize people thought it was on purpose until I started receiving a lot of compliments about that specific high note during the reception that followed. Today, I am still a baritone, but I have a much easier time reaching high notes without the unintentional squalling. In fact, people now compliment me by saying that my vocals remind them of Musiq Soulchild, Maxwell, and occasionally Stevie Wonder. I guess I can’t be mad about that.
4. My friend group has changed drastically.
Since I grew up on A Different World and my father is a member of Omega Psi Phi, I have always had a bit of an interest in Greek life. However, I knew myself well enough to know that I did not have it in me to be hazed unless the hazing brothers wanted to fight. (Ironically, my father got through his line by threatening to stab the older brothers in his chapter who attempted to haze him. They knew he was serious and left him alone. I guess I take after my father after all.) Within a month of preaching my first sermon, I started going through the orientation process for Gamma Phi Delta Christian Fraternity. It was a major blessing to me because I had lost most of my previous group of friends on campus due to a pretty messy breakup that occurred not too far ahead of my first sermon. (Sadly, most of those friends I lost were people I had met in Christian fellowships on campus. Christians can be petty) By some miracle, I managed to make a few friends including one who is now like my (taller) little brother that my parents forgot to have. I guess God used the frat to restore to me what I had lost (and to build my resume since I am now a national officer). For that I am grateful.
That’s all I have for today. Maybe I’ll share some more changes at another time. Right now, I am just thankful for the way that God has used me over the past eight years. It will only get bigger and better from here.