Kyle Walker poses with his wife, Lauren, and their children Taylor Grace, Libby, and Clay. CFBC/Special
Much like we shouldn't wait until mid-February to let our spouses know how much we love them, we shouldn't keep appreciation for our pastors limited to October. However, with it being Pastor Appreciation Month it's not a bad reminder for us to take the extra step of encouraging those charged with leading our churches and presenting the most important message in the world today.
I'm going to use this editorial to single out my pastor at Cartersville First Baptist, Kyle Walker. I've been watching Kyle since before he came to CFBC and was excited when he answered the call to become our pastor. Since then he's been the man of God First Baptist needs and challenges us to grow deeper in our faith. I'm also hoping this column gets me one of those really nice parking spots at church (We don't have that many pregnant women, do we?)
I served on the pastor search team that would eventually extend a call to Kyle to become our pastor. It was during this time I got a sense of the man he is.
In January of 2019 I visited Summerville First Baptist and had lunch with Pastor Sean Wegener, his family, and Barry Peppers, associational missionary for Chattooga Baptist Association. After leaving I remembered Sean having attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. At the time the search team was considering Kyle, a member of the Southwestern faculty. I called Sean to see if the two knew each other.
"Oh yeah, we were neighbors, in fact," he said. "One of the most impressive things I saw in Kyle was his commitment to his family. He was always active with his daughters and little boy. We'd often talk while throwing the football or playing a pickup game with the neighborhood kids.
"But more than that, Kyle was a spiritual leader on our street. He'd take time to pray with us. Kyle is a righteous man who sees that his friends and neighbors thrive. That alone is something to celebrate."
It's one thing to read someone's resume. But if you really want to know the man, talk to his neighbor.
As I listened to more of Kyle's sermons online, I could see God at work in him. His passion for preaching showed not only in his time behind the pulpit, but in his writing. Right now, I'm reading his book "Let the Text Talk." Here's a section to reflect Kyle's view on preaching and its connection to the pastorate:
"The theological relationship between the nature of Scripture and the act of preaching is intimate, and expository preaching is the homiletical methodology that honors this relationship most fully."
Kyle shows this week in and week out in the pulpit. I'm one of those note-taking nerds, and struggle keeping it to two pages during his sermons. He unpacks a lot, but has a way of boiling things down to the simple, direct, unadulterated truth.
"Speaking the Word of life must be a way of life." May 19, 2019 (preaching at CFBC in view of a call to become pastor)
"Brotherly affection is shown through a variety of actions, including praying for one another, studying the Bible together, and simply being there for one another." Dec. 8, 2019
"Do we live in fear, or under the boldness brought to us by the Holy Spirit?" March 15, 2020 (first Sunday CFBC met remotely due to COVID-19)
"The only people God cannot use to spread the Gospel are the ones who refuse to share it." May 10, 2020
Kyle breathes evangelism and discipleship. The former I saw for myself as he presented the gospel to the lady giving us extra breadsticks at Fazoli's. The latter he drives home each week at the end of worship.
Kyle: "As you go ..."
Congregation: "... make disciples!"
"His high view of Scripture translates to a high view of discipleship," says Kyle Clayton, CFBC's student minister, who also pointed out how our pastor's focus on small groups to promote discipleship began with his own. "Not long after Kyle arrived he got with a few other guys and they began meeting weekly, memorizing Scripture and talking about life. He's encouraged this with the church staff, too.
"If we're going say discipleship is important, we need to promote it and bring out a process of doing it. Kyle's all about that."
Anything you don't like about him?
"I'm jealous of his hair," Clayton admits. "It's perfect, and you can't really mess it up."
Steven James, our associate pastor, witnessed Kyle's ability to connect with others when they worked together at Southwestern Seminary.
"He has a way of passing along information and having it click with people. It's all based on Scripture. Everything we do needs to be in line with that. Forming D-groups (small discipleship groups) was a natural fit for him," he says.
Though a fan of small groups, Kyle isn't afraid to venture outside of that format. For most of the winter he led a Wednesday night study for some 200 people in the sanctuary on how to study your Bible.
Speaking of venturing outside, he's an outdoorsman and has passed that love along to his daughters, Taylor Grace (8) and Libby (6), as well as his son, a three-year-old whirlwind named Clay. Their property outside of town is perfect for riding the four-wheeler and checking game cameras for deer.
"One of our favorite family activities is to shoot the bow," says his wife, Lauren. "When he gets home from work, the kids always ask if he'll wrestle with them and he always does."
When the Walkers moved to Cartersville, they soon found a house in the country that would be perfect for their needs and included space for guests. It did, however, need some work. Kyle and Lauren did most of it before an accident June 5 led to Kyle losing the tip of his left pointer finger. Members of CFBC responded (within safety protocols, of course) to help with the renovations. Lauren said it’s only one example of the way the church has loved them since their arrival.
“We’ve been blessed with dinners, date nights, babysitting, tickets to things – you don’t know just how wonderful those are,” she expresses.
For all Kyle's qualities as a husband and father, though, Lauren says it's something else that makes him the man he is.
"He trusts the Lord," she says simply. "He speaks the Word. At the end of the day, his job is to preach it."
I've singled out mine, but of course I want to extend this appreciation to all of our pastors and ministry staff across the state. It can't be said enough: you minister in an unbelievable time where your church members – as much as I know you love them – can make things ... challenging.
We can't believe you haven't supported political position A. We can't believe you haven't spoken out against political position A. Why in the world aren't we meeting together? Why in the world are we meeting together? What's up with wearing masks? What's up with not wearing masks?
I know you carry the pressure of having a perfect family while living in a glass house. You feel the burdens for the people in your church, burdens the other 95 percent of us don't know about. Your wife is a single mom on Sundays. The notion of a day "off" is kind of cute, as crises don't care about the calendar nor the fact you promised your family your full attention.
And all that said, you still consider it an honor to step behind that pulpit on Sundays and deliver God's Word.
Thank you for everything you do, pastors. That includes what we don't see as well as what we do. Your work is more crucial than ever, the message you carry the most important in the world.
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