Ministry on the Margins at Tazewell-New Covenant

We came to New Covenant about 3 years ago. Like most pastors and their families that experience ministry change, we came to Tazewell wild eyed, a little nervous, a lot of excitement, and totally trusting in God as we headed into so many unknowns. There is much about ministry and pastoring that you can learn through school, reading, teaching, and on the job training, and as great as all those things are, there are still so many things in ministry that happen for which you have no training or wisdom. I feel like our time here at New Covenant has been more of the latter.  

As ministers, almost all us when moving into a new ministry role or context, fully believe that God has put us in that position to grow that ministry. However, sometimes God sends us to places, or elevates us to a position, with a priority of growing us individually.   I am a big proponent of numerical and financial growth to coincide with spiritual growth, and we have had that here at New Covenant. There have been ups and downs, wins and losses, celebrations as well as hurt and pain in the last three years, but the greatest growth has been for me as an individual. Pastoring New Covenant, a church on the margins, has forever changed me in ways that are almost indescribable. From personal spiritual growth, spiritual leadership, and even a husband and a father, the decision the come to New Covenant, in Tazewell, VA, was orchestrated by the hand of God.  

I was fortunate to follow a great pastor and was able to hit the ground running on a lot of things. We did many of the things that you do for new growth and creating momentum. We remodeled bathrooms, painted, put in new media and sound systems, organized hospitality teams, looked for ways to close the back door, got involved in the community and community events, hired staff, lost staff, gained new members and new converts, lost members and so many other things that every pastor works hard to accomplish.  However, when I think of ministry on the margins I can’t help but also think about the pastors and families and their mental, physical, and spiritual health. 

Pastoring in a town that has more cows than people can be difficult, especially when coupled with my own expectations of growth and success.  These expectations do not always line up with God’s expectations or even His plan.  There are many days that I feel like a complete failure. I have had a season of depression. I can get overwhelmed by all the things that I need to be doing and get done to the point I feel paralyzed and I don’t get anything done, and yet, so many times I put on the right face around my peers and pretend everything is great.  I write these things knowing I am not alone and that is what gives me the courage to do so. Even pastors of large churches feel this way. Many of us, when we finally open up and have honest conversations, struggle with trying to minister on a level that we deem successful, that many times is false and even detrimental to our physical and spiritual health. 

On the flip side, it has been amazing to me how the small moments, the small wins, the things that seem insignificant in ministry, the moments on the margins with people on the margins, that keep me going and make it all worthwhile. There will always be dark days. There will always be failures and I have had many of these last three years, but when I look around at our church and my own life I am proud of what God has helped us to accomplish at New Covenant Church of God and will do my best to fulfill my call while ministering on the margins.

Dave Webb
Senior Pastor, New Covenant