It was late fall in 1995. NE Metro was going well. Now we had moved in to a little warehouse space right off Jimmy Carter Blvd. God was showing up at all of our meetings. We had a worship team and a children’s ministry. I think we were up to over 100 adults. We were really a radical church. Tony was more of a prophet than a pastor. His sermons were right on target for what God was doing and it was an exciting time. Julia and I were there at least three times a week and although it was a long drive, God gave us the grace for it. We were still having renewal meetings, but they were all at Mark Lawson’s church. By now the Atlanta Vineyard had basically turned away from renewal along with most of the other Vineyard Churches. There were still a good number who supported Toronto, but it looked almost inevitable that the Vineyard was going to kick Toronto out, sooner rather than later.
There was a particular renewal meeting when Jim Goll came to Atlanta to minister. Now if you don’t know Jim Goll, you can just imagine a wild eyed prophet from the Old Testament showing up at your church. He was totally wild. You never knew what he was going to do. For that reason most pastors really didn’t want him in their pulpits on Sunday mornings. But He is so anointed by the Holy Spirit, and so accurate with his words. He was perfect for a renewal meeting because He values the Presence of God above anything else. So here he was and we were all excited to have him minister. I don’t remember anything about the message or the worship, but the ministry time I remember like yesterday, and that was almost 15 years ago. Jim was giving words to people right and left. The anointing was so strong on him that he could hardly stand. I remember that I was standing with Tony when Jim came up and started prophesying over him. It was so strong, and so right on that Tony could hardly stand. I was holding Tony up while Jim kept on and on. I was praying for a word, but I normally don’t get many words from people, so I really wasn’t looking for one. But just then as Jim finished Tony he pointed at me and started yelling “Flaming Associate, Flaming Associate. You hearts is on fire, you carry fire in you heart.” Then he looked at Tony and asked: “Is he your associate?” Tony said no and Jim then said: “He is now” and turned and walked away.
Now Julia and I were Tony and Sandy’s best friends. We were closer to them than anyone and we did everything that associate pastors would do. I felt that God had told me that I would become an associate pastor, but I figured that it would be in a couple of years. I wasn’t pushing for a title; I just wanted to serve. Tony and Sandy were perfect role models for Julia and I. We were learning about team ministry by being around them both. We were just happy to be involved and happy to watch Holy Spirit continue to show up. But when Jim spoke that over me, it resonated as truth to me. But more importantly it resonated as truth to Tony. As we left the meeting that night, Tony looked at me and said that we would need to talk later in the week.
Julia and I met with Tony and Sandy to discuss what Jim had prophesied over us. Tony and Sandy both agreed that it was time for us to be recognized for what we had already been doing. He wanted to ordain us as associate pastors. The question was really to Julia. Did she want to be ordained, or did she just want to work with me as a team. Sandy had been ordained so ordaining women wasn’t an issue. But Julia felt more comfortable with just me being ordained. It really didn’t matter. We all knew that she was just as much an associate pastor as I was. So, on December 17, 1995 I was ordained as a Minister in the North East Metro Vineyard Christian Fellowship. It was a powerful service. Mom and Dad were there, and I tried not to fall under the power of the Spirit, but it was just too much and down I went.
You know that God has a great sense of humor. All these years in planting Vineyard churches, I had dreamed about someday being a Vineyard pastor. I had asked God if that were possible, and He and said it was. Well here it is. My dream of being a Vineyard pastor was fulfilled. But the next week Toronto, under extreme pressure, left the Vineyard. By the end of the year, we left the Vineyard too. Although we made the right decision, and followed what God was calling us to do, I still laugh when I think that I was a “Vineyard pastor” for less than two weeks. I still laugh about that even now. God is so good. We were at NE Metro until the summer of 1999. I cherish our time there. Julia and I grew so much under Tony and Sandy. He was and is like a brother to me. I will always cherish our time with them. It was probably one of the most enriching times in my life. I know that Julia would say the same thing.