Discerning God’s Voice & Finding Faith Part II

Read part I of this story here

Like many congregations across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic stretched to First Baptist of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

After calling several pastors who had brief durations, the congregation once again seemed on the verge of closing. At the request of New Mexico State Baptist Convention Executive Director Joseph Bunce, retired pastor Mike Dean tstepped in to provide interim leadership.

Dean agreed, but was reluctant. His concern was that a church in First Baptist condition needed stable leadership and that seemed antithetical for someone in an interim capacity to be able to provide. Nonetheless, trusting God and wanting to help his friend, Dean agreed.

However, he agreed prayerfully that God would send the congregation a long term pastor that could meet their needs. The answer to that prayer came not long after Dean’s arrival in the form of a young man on fire for Christ eager to explore what vocation ministry might look like.

The young man, Zac Teston grew up in the Milnesand community in the southeastern part of New Mexico, about 10 miles from the Texas border. He and his partner in ministry, his wife Sara, met through their mutual involvement in the Baptist Student Union at Eastern New Mexico State University in Portales.

Teston had served as a campus missionary at several colleges in the Houston metropolitan area but had begun feeling a sense of call to return to their home state. Relocating to Las Vegas in 2017, Teston became active in the campus ministry at the local Baptist student center of New Mexico Highlands University and members at First Baptist Church.

After several years of attempting to revitalize a Baptist campus ministry in the community, Teston felt exasperated.

“The people were faithful and continued to serve,” he said. “We tried community groups with some success and efforts like door-to-door witnessing and gathering food and clothing items for people. But we didn’t see a lot of fruit.”

Then came COVID-19 and Dean’s arrival.

Teston had been filling the pulpit prior to Dean’s arrival and continued to do so once or twice a month. However, a noticeable shift had seemingly occurred in the life of the congregation. The combination of veteran pastoral experience with youthful eagerness to serve the Lord created the perfect atmosphere to nurture a mentoring relationship.

Whether meeting over lunch at a restaurant or brown-bagging it at the church, the benefits of gray hair mentioned in Proverbs 16:31 became apparent in their meetings and thus, in their relationship.

Recognizing Teston’s potential as a pastor, Dean took the young campus minister under his wings. Dean said, “Pastor work is people’s work. You build and develop relationships, live alongside them and walk with them through seasons of life.”

“He’s a very encouraging guy,” Teston said. “He’s been doing this so long and is humble about it.

“One of the biggest things I took away is the role of the pastor. We may think it’s just about the sermon. But the pastor leads, cares for and teaches the church. We must see the needs and meet them.”

Commenting on the unique opportunity emerging within the congregation, Rick Brittain, the state Baptist convention’s missionary for the northern portion of the state where First Baptist is located, said, “Here, you had a young guy who came to Las Vegas at his own expense to minister,” he said. “You have an older guy with a lot of experience. It was a perfect match.

“The younger guy wants to grow. The older guy wants to pass the torch.”

That desire in both of them is the building block, Brittain said. As the relationship blossomed, Dean and others in the congregation began to realize Teston might just be the perfect fit long-term for the pastorate.

Coming as no surprise, when Dean announced in the Spring that Teston would be assuming full responsibility for the managing and administration of the church, no one was surprised despite its unconventional nature. (Normally, First Baptist calls a pastor after a pastoral search process.)

Content, stable, and more importantly growing. Brittain remarked he believed the church was in good hands.

Source: Baptist Standard