What Ministry Means to Me

Dr. Andrea King, pastor, Imani Praise Fellowship, Southeastern California Conference, addresses delegates to the Pacific Union Conference special constituency session, August 19, 2012.

PASTOR KING:  Good afternoon.  I grew up as a daughter of a pastor, yet it never occurred to me that women could be pastors.  As a matter of fact, when my sister, all of five or six years old, told me that she was going to be a pastor, I remember putting my dolls down and putting my big sister hat on, and I let her [59] know that she could not be a pastor.  You can be a school teacher, but no preaching for you.

Perhaps that's why, when I was 14 years old, when our youth director called and asked if I would speak for the conference camporee, it was very easy to say no, not only the fact that I was a woman, but also because I was a teenager and I didn't want my friends to think there was something crazy about me up there trying to preach. Well, my youth director and my mother had a different idea, and I did end up preaching.  In the middle of nowhere, out there, a God found us all in that camporee.  His Spirit moved mightily.  He came in that place.  He did something that I didn't even know what He was doing, and young people from four states flooded the alter as we all rededicated our lives to God.

Churches from all over the conference would call me to speak to their young people, but I never thought, in a million years, that I would be in ministry, let alone in ministry full time. 

I wanted to be in broadcast media.  I wanted to be an anchorwoman. I had landed an internship at Black Entertainment Television.  I had auditioned for some shows and producers said I had a future.  I had big plans for my life, but still, in the pit of my stomach, I felt that [60] God wasn't in on those plans. So one day, I was telling God about my plans. I was letting Him know what I would and would not do.  I had this nagging feeling that He wanted me to go to Oakwood, and the biggest ministry position in my head that a woman could attain to was being a pastor's wife. So I had to let God know, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn't going to Oakwood and I was not going to marry a pastor.

A cousin of mine told me that's where you went wrong.  You never tell God what you're not going to do. If you say something, then say I'm never going to get a billion dollars.  By the way, I have to introduce my husband, the pastor, Pastor Kirk King. It was while I was having this dialogue with God that He said, "You are going to Oakwood and you're going to be a pastor." Again, a flood of emotions knocked me over as I sat at my desk crying, "Be a pastor?"  I didn't even believe in women pastors, so I knew I must be losing my mind. 

Plus the year was 1995, and from the most recent vote of the General Conference, it seemed to me that my denomination didn't believe in women pastors either, and so this could not be from God.

For a long time, I kept it a secret.  God still [61] wouldn't let me rest.  I didn't tell anybody, but people came to me saying, "God is calling you to the ministry." I decided I would try to major in theology, but I didn't have the nerve to tell my mother.  We were driving to Oakwood College.  It was an eight-hour trip, and in the last hour, I remember sitting in the car begging God for courage.  I finally told her as we were on the I-65 that I was going to major in theology, and she almost drove off the road. "Oh, no, you're not.  No child of mine is going to major in theology.  You are going to college.  You're going to get a real major where you can get a job.  You will not be wasting my money."

My response was, "Well, God, I tried.  My mom said I couldn't do it, so, oh, well."

Yet still, God gave me no rest.  I would be walking through the campus, and people would be saying things like, "You're supposed to be doing something, and the only reason why you're not doing it is because you're a woman."  Others would point to me and say, "Don't abort your mission." I just couldn't take it, and so I went to the library and I read all of the books that I could on women in ministry, and all the ones they had at that time basically told me that women who pastored were [62] disobedient and were going to hell. 

I remember telling God, "I'm sorry, I don't want to go to hell, so I cannot obey you."

The old folks used to say, "Your arms are too short to box with God." Eventually, I stopped fighting my call and I obeyed.  Still, it was through much praying and fasting and crying and pleading and prodding.  Unfortunately, I was more like Esther than Ellen.  Esther, when she heard that the Jews were going to be destroyed, she wished them luck, but didn't want to do anything herself, and Mordecai said, "Perhaps God has called you for such a time as this."  I was much like Esther instead of Ellen. I wanted to wait until things worked out.  I wanted to wait until it seemed safe.  I wanted to wait until I was sure I could get a job.  I wanted to wait.

And many times, we think that God's will is connected to open doors.  We think that if the door is open, this must be God's will, but I have found that sometimes God's will lies behind closed doors, and it is for this very reason He says knock and the door will be opened to you.

I was more like Esther than Ellen, Ellen White that is.  When God gave the revelation to Hazen Foss, things weren't working for him either.  He didn't want [63] to do it.  He didn't want to tell anybody.  He didn't want to minister as God had called him to, and so God gave that anointing and those visions and that revelation to a young woman, and she told it. I'm sure there were even more obstacles for her than there were for Hazen Foss, but she could not wait. She would not wait, and I was slowly learning the same lesson. 

I was learning that delayed obedience is disobedience.  God wanted me to obey and He wanted me to obey now.  It wasn't something that I fully understood, but God was teaching me that understanding is not a prerequisite for obedience.  So I did what God told me to do, much like the women Jesus told to tell of His resurrection.  I'm sure they had more questions than they had answers, but they obeyed, and eventually, so did I, and I'm glad I did.

It's embarrassing, really, because I knew we were living in the last days.  I should have expected this.  God said that in the last days, He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, that sons and daughters would prophesied, but I just didn't get it.  God was doing just what He said.  I'm glad He did it.  It's not what I wanted.  It's not what I asked for, but so many times, I have said thank you, Jesus, that your answers were so much greater than my prayers. [64] I never realized the blessing that ministry was, not only to my life, but to those around me. 

I went to seminary, and during the Toronto General Conference session, the youth department put on "Impact Toronto," and I had the privilege of preaching in a tent in Regent Park, and it was there that 90 souls made decisions for Christ.  That last weekend of General Conference session on the youth side, we took up offerings to fund two task force workers to work with these 90 people. 

It was at this meeting that a man came to me and said, "Pastor, guess what?  I overslept." "That's nice, Brother.  Praise the Lord."  "No.  You don't understand.  I was a heroin addict.  Every morning I was up at 7:00 a.m. because my body had to have heroin.  I never oversleep, and this is the third day I have overslept, and today, I slept until 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon.  I haven't craved heroin for three days.  This God you have been preaching about has removed my addiction."

I have seen God miraculously heal cancer.  I have seen Him do wonderful, wonderful miracles.  I have had the privilege of sitting with AIDS victims and sharing the love of God when nobody else would go.  I've had the privilege of talking to those young people our deacons would call the police on because they were [65] skateboarding on our property.  I had the opportunity to give them Bible studies and baptize them with my own hands. You know, I got a chance to show young gang members life in Christ.  Sometimes they would ride with me to different parts of the town going to youth events and whatnot.  They would have to literally hide in the back of the car when we went down certain streets so that they wouldn't get shot.  They were doing this because they were committed to life in Christ, and God was transforming them, saving them, and changing them.

There was a time when all I wanted to do was be an anchorwoman and describe the news.  I imagine I would report stories on gang violence or drug addiction or HIV victims, but through the power of Jesus Christ and the call on my life, I was now able to create stories.  I was able to see sides that the news would never talk about.  Instead of reporting how the enemy came to kill, still, and destroy, I got to see firsthand the breaking news of how Jesus comes to give life and give it more abundantly.

I am reminded of the mantra that Dr. E.E. Cleveland taught all of us my first year as a theology major.  It captures what my ministry has been all about. If I get too high, if I get too low, I remember this: [66] "I have seen God do so much, with so little, for so long, I am now convinced He can do anything with nothing," meaning me.  Thank you.