There have been two moments in my life that I heard the audible voice of Jesus. The first moment was when I was freshman in college, and my mother called me to come home to be with my grandfather who was dying. As I drove down the back roads of a little community in East Mississippi, I heard an audible voice say, “Jonathan, I’m not done with you yet.” Those words changed the direction of my life.
The second moment was most recently, and the moment itself could not have come at a more perfect time. For the last four years, I’ve had the distinct honor of serving as Lead Pastor of Asbury and Glendale congregations in Petal (Asbury) and Hattiesburg (Glendale). This was my first lead pastor gig, and I’ve learned so much about myself, ministry, and my calling to serve. These last four years have been met with many challenges, and the Lord has been faithful through it all. While I am grateful for the challenges, because they mold and shape us into who we are today, I am grateful for this season of spiritual renewal and transition in preparation for the next season. Equally, I am confident my season of serving as Lead Pastor has come to an end with a real encounter of the Lord, Jesus.
On May 23, 2021, Pentecost, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon us all in the church called Asbury in Petal, MS. I’ll never forget it. After preaching my final sermon, one about hungering for the harvest, I received the Lord’s Supper, embraced a hug from our Youth Minister, then sat down. The response to the sermon was for the congregation to come pick up a chair for the person they were going to pray for or reach for the harvest. These chairs were stacked up in the front, and this response felt like hundreds of people moving about the floor.
As the band began leading a song, I remained seated, taking in the moment. I knew it was the final sermon I’d ever preach there. At that exact realization, I felt someone’s hand on my left shoulder, but no one was touching me. Then I heard these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I cried. I don’t mean subtle tears, I mean big ugly crying like my parents were holding me. My shoulders were bouncing with the rhythm of the tears flowing and my mouth wide open releasing the equally matched sounds from my chest expressing relief and comfort being in the presence of Jesus. Then Jesus said it again, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Repeat all of the above paragraph with tears again.)
As I somewhat gained my composure, finding full deep breaths, I felt the Lord place both hands on my shoulders, and feel His body move in front of me, as though He were squatting or kneeling down to see my eyes. As the Lord moved into this posture, He said, “I am proud of you.” Thinking I had no more water left in my eyes, somehow I cried even more. Probably four years worth of tears were inside of me.
After catching my breath one more final time, I felt that Jesus had stood up, and placed His hand on my left shoulder again to which He said one last time, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I knew in that moment that I had been relieved and released from the work He sent me to do, and that is what I am processing still to this day. Lord Jesus of Nazareth touched me and spoke.