Being able to relate to the personal struggles of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, led Jason Dillard into ministry.
Dillard has been pastor at Crossroads United Methodist Church since June.
Its his first position as senior pastor.
Wesley grew up in a culture where everyone was a de facto Christian, Dillard said. They thought, Of course, Im a Christian. I grew up in England. Ive been baptized -- Im a Christian. But that wasnt always the case, and Wesley had the holy boldness to question it. He questioned it in his own life.
I had that same struggle and questions. Shouldnt my being a Christian make a real difference in my life? I wondered how I was supposed to live and what the relationship was between my faith and my actions. Wesleys struggles coming to grips with his faith spoke to me. Shouldnt our actions, our good works, bear out our faith?
Dillard said he, like Wesley, came to the conclusion the act of becoming a Christian was crucial in their lives but that they should passionately continue to pursue God and actively love him and other people.
Simply put, its taking seriously what Jesus said was the greatest commandment: love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then to love people as yourself, he said.
Dillard said that pursuit led to his leaving a career in grassroots marketing for Jimmy Johns sandwiches and eventually to his coming to Crossroads.
In Wesleyan theology, the great pursuit of Christian life comes from believing our heart can be completely filled with love for God and for other people, he said. Were crazy enough to believe if Jesus told us to do it, its possible. For us, salvation is a doorway to that process, not the end.
Dillard said pursuit of that goal has been at the heart of Crossroads since it began as a church plant in 1968 with Rev. Dick Reese as pastor.
The church has been through transitions in the past few years but always at its heart was that pursuit, he said. Im still new and am amazed every day to find some new ministry our people are doing in the church and the community. I help clarify our direction, but its been the people whove started ministries that express their love for God and others. Theres something in the DNA of this church that makes them want to serve others in the community.
Dillard said that service includes a variety of prison ministries, volunteerism in local schools, support and work in Perrys Loaves and Fishes food bank, serving hundreds of Christmas meals to transients and people who have to work on Christmas day and many more acts of love.
And there are yet more plans, including a community garden to provide healthy produce.
People want to do this as they follow Jesus, Dillard said. I just get out of the way and let them follow Gods lead. Each spring, Crossroads has a Heavenly Barbecue fundraiser that has helped maintain our facilities. Im so proud. This year members came to me and said they wanted the money to go outside our church to others. It shows a literal and figurative move away from maintenance to mission and to keeping hold of that desire to always be involved in blessing others.
Dillard said he worked three years as a youth pastor to test his calling before going to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., where he got a master of divinity degree. While there he met his wife, Tawndee, who was earning a masters in pastoral counseling. The two have been married for five years and have two daughters.
While at Asbury, Dillard was involved in a church plant that began as an apartment Bible study and grew to a multi-campus church. Upon graduating, he served in Albany as youth pastor before being appointed senior pastor at Crossroads in June of 2012.
He said within weeks of coming to Perry and Crossroads UMC, he and his wife agreed they felt at home in the church.
Im just in love with the community and the people here at Crossroads, he said. And the fact as pastor Im not the point of this place. Im just part of a team. Every churchs mission is to create followers of Jesus. We at Crossroads are looking at how we can best do that right here right now.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.