Pastor’s Corner: Mark McClelland
Pastor’s Corner: Mark McClelland
Willowbrook Baptist Church
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Texas. God called us to Huntsville, Alabama in 2001, and we pray He keeps us here forever. We LOVE this city.
Jan and I have been married thirty-one years. Would you believe we got married when we were ten? I didn’t think so.
I finally have to embrace being middle-aged because we will soon be empty nesters. Our son, John Mark, is going to Huntingdon College to study and play baseball. Our daughter, Mandy, is a nurse at Huntsville Hospital and is married to Clayton Simons.
I love to fly fish, hike, travel with my beautiful wife, golf, coach or watch my son play ball, and grill on the Big Green Egg.
I also thank God everyday for the privilege of being the pastor of Willowbrook. I am so in love with the people of our church. Jan and I take nothing for granted; we know that we are very blessed.
What motivates you to do what you do?
It’s all about seeing lives changed by the transforming power of the Gospel. When someone meets Jesus, not only is their eternal destiny changed, so is their life on earth. Sin is forgiven; bondage is broken, marriages are healed, addictions are conquered, relationships are restored, and life purpose is found.
One of the first verses I memorized as a new Christian was 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.” That verse still motivates me. The reason we call Willowbrook a church of new life is because that is what you find when you meet Jesus. He makes all things new, and I love having a front row seat watching him do it.
On Monday mornings, I’m not thinking about the attendance or offering from the previous day, I am picturing the faces of people who met Jesus. That is what I live for.
This past Sunday, we celebrated the story of an atheist named Chase who used to mock Christians, but he found Christ at our Madison Campus. Now he’s planning to move to Japan where he will teach school and share Christ with those who have never heard. It’s a long way from being an atheist making fun of Christians in Huntsville to sharing the Gospel in Japan, but that’s the kind of God that we serve. I am motivated by people like Chase.
Life change is not just for unbelievers. Christians who have drifted from God also need to know there is hope. We are constantly telling people that ours is a God of second chances. We can begin again. Our future is not limited by our past because of a thing called grace.
What is God speaking to you right now?
I’m learning more and more what it means to enjoy God. Preachers talk a lot about working for God and serving God, because these are things that can be measured and quantified. But we don’t talk as much about enjoying God. In John 15, Jesus repeatedly says, “Abide in me.”
I am learning that the secret to enjoying God is abiding in him. God wants me to work for him and serve him, but he also wants me to enjoy him. When I do that, growth comes as a by-product of the relationship. Jesus said, “He who abides in me bears much fruit” (John 15:15).
We live in a society that values fruit bearing and growth. The bottom line is what counts. As a result, working for God is an easier concept for people to grasp than abiding in God. It’s easy to chart numbers when you are trying to grow a church. It’s harder to track a relationship with God. But Christianity, at its core, is a love relationship to be enjoyed.
The pace of ministry is fast and furious. If we are not careful, the busyness of ministry demands can choke out the sheer joy of who we are doing it for. Lately, God is calling me to more alone time with him and an awareness throughout the day of his presence. We “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) not just to get answers to our requests, but to enjoy our Savior and best friend who calls us his bride. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
As a pastor, those words take the pressure off. First of all, Jesus says it’s his church. It’s not my church. I didn’t shed my blood for it; he did. Then he says he will build it. I will work hard, but he’s the one who will build his church. My job is to be faithful and to abide.
What a liberating way to live! I know how to work hard for God, but I am learning more how to enjoy God. I am discovering he can get a lot more done than me anyway, and I find that I am a lot more joyful.
What does unity in our city mean to you?
There is a mathematical axiom which states, “Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another.” The same is true in the spiritual world. If we are united to Christ we ought to be united to one another. Churches need to be cooperating not competing. We have a common enemy in Satan who will not be defeated unless churches come together as one. We may have differences in how we do church, but anyone who loves Jesus and believes the Word of God is my friend.
Years ago, I heard a news story about a toddler who slipped out her front door on a cold winter’s day. She was wearing only a thin nightgown. The mother looked everywhere but could not find her. Soon there were dozens of volunteers looking. Doctors warned that with dropping temperatures the girl could not survive much longer.
The sun was starting to set and the rescue workers were running out of places to look. They had searched a nearby field and found nothing. But someone suggested they all join hands and walk across the field one more time.
As they walked across the field in a united line, they found the little girl curled up in the tall grass. It was too late. As the mother picked up her lifeless daughter, she wept, “Oh God, why didn’t we join hands sooner?”
People where we live are dying without Christ, and we have the answer. It’s time for churches in our city to join hands in unity. We need to join hands across denominational lines, across racial lines, across socioeconomic lines and march across our city with the good news of God’s love offering grace and hope to all people.
We can’t do it alone. Everyone who belongs to Christ belongs to everyone else who belongs to Christ. In John 17:22, Jesus prayed for us as he neared the cross. He prayed that we would be one.
Prayer for the city?
My prayer for our city is the prayer Paul prayed over the Colossians in Colossians 1:9-12, “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”