Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Need a Chance, a Second Chance or Third? 

All of us need people who will give us a Chance. I love to find people who need a Chance, who don't expect a new Chance is available. I love to be the guy who gives them a Chance. One of the reasons why is a story of my early years of family and ministry. I was a full blown bone head, but my Pastor, Danny McSpaddin, and his wife Joan, gave me a Chance. He may never read this, but I am thankful. Let me share a little of my story. 

Young & Dumb: I was newly married. I was in my 20's and dumb. When you are young and dumb it's ok to be young and dumb, but I hated it. I learned as much as I could about as many things as I could. I felt so ill equipped but highly motivated. Some of my good decisions at such a young age were going to Bible college, getting married to my best friend, Shanna Touchton-Ramsdell and learning to serve young people all across the Southern states with New Creation Ministries. Other good things I did was to begin a family right away and to listen hard when in class with my professors. The very stupid things I did were to leave Bible college as a Senior, to not become closer to my professors and to have shallow understanding about money management. Young and Dumb as a young and dumb man meant I was insulated to some extent, but it also meant I was exposed. In my career, ministry and calling, I needed a chance. 

Home Town, Home Grown, Home Team: When I did that very dumb thing of leaving college two semesters from graduation I did it because I was desperate to find a life-giving church family and career path. My home town and home church felt like a good option for my young pregnant wife and me. We stayed with my folks for a few months while finding a rental home down the street. Shanna started her piano business there and we brought Elizabeth home from the birthing center to play with her on that strange blue rug. I worked at a Christian bookstore, which was fun, but barely paid the bills. My deepest desire in ministry and career was to be part of a team. I loved my home church and felt it could become my home team. 

False Hope & Disappointment: I served my brains out as a volunteer in my home church, learned to do life with a new wife and baby and tried to learn more and more. I was getting deep into research of new and powerful church growth ideas. I wanted to move from the bookstore to church staff and felt ready. My family were all in leadership at the church and I felt I was next. My Pastor knew I was itching to join his team and knew I was working for pennies. He approached me after church one day and said something like "I know you have been looking for new ways to make money and to do what God has called you to" he then made a terrible conversational shift to an introduction. The introduction was not to my new role in the church, but to a man named Bryan, a man I will never forget. Bryan owned his own parking lot cleaning business. Pastor Danny introduced me to Bryan because Bryan needed more street sweepers and paid $100 a night. When Pastor Danny did not offer me a position on his team, but terribly directed me to Bryan, I wanted to take a swing at him, really. My dream was flushed and my nightmare of becoming a bum who cleaned streets became a reality. 

Wrong Lane: I said yes and began cleaning parking lots at night and running a bookstore during the day. No street sweeper like a Zamboni, that would have been a little bit cool, no, I was given a broom and commercial grade dust pan. I was told to begin around 10pm at night and work till done, usually as the sun came up. I was told it would be better if I ran when sweeping parking lots in front of liquor stores. I picked up dirty diapers, beer bottles and even used condoms. Every night, I was reminded my dream job and career path had bypassed me for reasons I could not understand. I fought disappointment every single day. I turned up praise and worship music in my car, opened the hatch, and at 3am, I sang praise to the Lord while no one cared or knew. I ran into homeless guys living in dumpsters and prostitutes exhausted and lonely. The night-crawlers of Tampa and Brandon could have been my people, they could have been me, or I could have been them. God had my attention. 

Front Row Revelation: Like I said, I studied new church growth and outreach strategies and loved church ministry theory. Small groups, called "cell groups" was one of the ideas I loved. One day my Pastor, Danny McSpaddin, began teaching the church about a new strategy he felt we should roll out and it looked alot like a cell group strategy. I was on the front row that night and took notes like a mad man. I wrote down more notes than he even shared. His wife, Joan, who had been a dear friend and college ministry leader, saw what had happened. She told Danny that I was crazy excited about everything he shared. Somehow he was convinced I was the right man to help him with this transition. We were a Baptist Church. Basically, he wanted to move us from Sunday School to Small Groups and move from traditional music ministry with choirs, robes, hymnals and organs to a rock band and modern worship music. It would be hard and controversial, but young and dumb doesn't care about that. 

The Moment & Dream: Danny didn't have to do it. Joan did not have to recommend me. I had not graduated college. I had no Seminary degree. I had not been full time on staff, nor did I come from the background my Pastor was used to hiring from. He called me into the office. My wife and I decided we could not take the job unless I was offered $15k a year. See, I was very, very young and dumb. When I replied to his meeting request he offered me over $30k a year, including a house the church owned, on the church property. I was licensed and ordained and now, I was legit. Pastor Danny McSpaddin and his lovely wife Joan, gave me a chance. They handed me small groups and outreach and put me on the team. 

Team: Don't you want to be on a team? A team who changes the world? A team who looks at your true identity and dreams and says yes. I am on the hunt for people I can say yes to. I pray that I can be Danny to others, over and over for the rest of my life. Maybe some young and dumb kid, or old and dumb adult will read this and call or text and risk getting excited about the dreams in his heart and I will help them walk them out. That is fun, that is being part of a team, I love it. 

Scolding: My wife scolded me one time, well, more than one time, but one time in particular, about hopes. He said we should get our hopes up, we should hope for things that seem impossible and my story illustrates that. I was dumb enough to hope even when my circumstances told me to give up. A moment changed it all when a mentor and leader gave me a chance. 

Hopes: Get your hopes up, dream and maybe a new chance is in your future. That would be cool. 

Billy Ramsdell