A friend and sister in Christ gave surveys to the pastors of the Pamunkey Baptist Association. Here are my answers.
Pastor John Robert Gresham, Jr. – Trinity Baptist Church
Q: What would you want your congregation to know about you?
A: That I am a devout seeker of God’s will. This seeking has led me to seriously study Orthodox Christianity. I admire the history, spirituality, and tradition of the ancient faith and have incorporated many of its practices in my daily walk. Orthodoxy has a lot to offer us and I share what I can in line with the Baptist faith. Other than that, I love my congregation dearly and feel embarrassingly blessed to serve them on Sundays and everyday.
Why did you choose to be the pastor of the church?
I don’t think I had a choice. God called me and Trinity’s pastoral search committee asked me not to go anywhere else. I was hijacked (lol)! But, I have always known of the faith and love at Trinity when Rev. James Carter was there. I grew up in Baptist Liberty and often worshiped and worked with members of Trinity in PBA and BGC events. So, I had a good idea of the congregation I would inherit (if it were God’s will). When Rev. Carter retired, there was nothing negative about his legacy and service. Good leadership was already in place. All I had (and still have) to do is serve and serve well to be accepted as the pastor.
What is one of the advantages of being the pastor?
“Ah-Ha” moments that result in changed lives. When a person takes hold of something that I said in a sermon, lesson, or even a cook-out, and grows from it. Sometimes they happen as soon the word is preached. Sometimes they take longer. But, to God’s glory, they happen. In the meantime, I have to find joy in just planting and watering seeds. The ultimate harvest belongs to God, not myself.
What is one of the disadvantages of being the pastor?
That’s an odd question. As Christians on a whole, we are supposed to count all things as a joy. I hate making mistakes. I do struggle with procrastination. It hurts to see the results of such failures. But, with spiritual discipline, these things can be overcome as all things work out toward the glory of God.
Why is the Holy Spirit so important to the body of Christ?
Another odd question. The Holy Spirit is, in the words of the early church fathers, “the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified” (Nicene Creed). No Holy Spirit = no Trinity = no Christianity. The Spirit comes to us from the Father to us and reminds us of the ways of the Son.
If you were the “PBA Preacher for the Month” and all churches gathered in your sanctuary – what would you preach about?
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). I fear that too many people today turn to Jesus to get stuff. True discipleship means giving stuff up and taking up suffering for the sake of something better. He is that something better.
How do you explain “The Trinity” to your congregation?
The baptism of Jesus is probably the best. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16, 17).
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.” How is this being done in your church?
Other than our regular Sunday School program, I give a very brief children’s sermon 3 out of 4 Sundays (I don’t do it youth (2nd) Sunday as I try to make the sermon oriented to them). My children’s sermons are stories I make up based on the main sermon. The kids feel included in the “grown up” service and it is a good prelude to the message.
Can you tell about an experience of God’s presence showing up in your congregation that was very powerful and overwhelming?
It shows up in all of our services in one form or another. One time that truly moved me was a few years back when a friend of one of our members was shot in a hunting accident. A few of the members called me and asked if we could have a special prayer service to ask God to heal him. I don’t remember a lot of shouting and all. But, the flow of compassion and concern for this young man who wasn’t a part of our flock was wonderful. Days later, he was released from the hospital. Our compassionate prayers were answered as we wished. It was a bit foolish of me not to keep such prayer services going.
What is more important in your life than you?
The spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on earth through love, truth, and spirit.
Write the word that comes to mind when you see these words. (Feel free to answer as many as you like)
Pressure – life in general Personal Sacrifice – self-discipline
Rejection – preserver Loneliness – maintain hope
Popularity – fickle Pride – dangerous
Disqualification – restoration Jealousy – unnecessary
Faithful – discipleship Inspirational – Holy Spirit
Trustworthy – truth Approachable – Jesus Christ
Forgiving – merciful Self-discipline – lifestyle
Decision Maker – wise Qualified – God decides
Successful Leader – by who’s standard? Motivator – self through love
Assuming Responsibility – difficult but necessary Follower – disciple
Are there any final words you would like to share with me?
Thomas gave a great description of what Christian discipleship is about in John 11:16, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” To follow Jesus means being willing to put a lot of things about us at risk. No, it means putting ourselves at risk. Our dreams, goals, ideals, perceptions, preconceived ideas, traditions, and even our lives are to be placed as unimportant in comparison to being in the presence of God. Sometimes this risk leads to an obvious happy ending (as in the resurrection of Lazarus and Jesus). Sometimes the happiness is indirect and leads to a greater glory (as in the case of the stoning of Stephen with Saul consenting in Acts 7:55-60). Nevertheless, the risk must be taken. I pray for the courage to take it.