Article By: Suzanne R. Holsomback
Over the past few years, a small church nestled in the hay fields of McGregor, Texas has grown, moved, and entered into a new phase of ministry. Harris Creek Baptist Church planted themselves in the community over 130 years ago and continues "seeking the welfare of the city" today with their pastor, James Tippit.
James, a native of Garland, Texas, began his journey into ministry and ultimately the pastorate when he was attending the University of North Texas. He was active in Young Life and ministered primarily behind the scenes, playing and running around with children. He says that at that time he had no desire to preach and believed that his personality did not fit with what he assumed was a "pastor personality." However, he was asked to speak at a Young Life student staff meeting, and at the end of the evening a close friend of James told him that if he did not preach, he would be missing God's call on his life.
With a casual smile, James says that he was not into ties and suits and the things he assumed pastors were all about, but he remembers that his friend's comment planted a seed that seminary might be something he needed to consider. Attending seminary was an idea that took root and grew in James' life. After he graduated, he married Teri, a Baylor graduate and then Baylor employee, and moved to Waco. He began looking for jobs and seminaries and discovered that the brand new George W. Truett Theological Seminary was the perfect place for him. He entered Truett's second class in the spring of 1995, taking one class and ministering to youth at Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Robinson.
"I had such a great experience at Truett," James says. "I can remember it being so different from what it is now, but there is still that same spirit of comradery and the ability to discuss things with professors after hours. I remember having tea in Dr. Conyers' house and talking about the subjects we were talking about in class." He says that Truett challenged him and during his time in seminary Dr. Chip Conyers told him that he should preach. James remembers thinking, "[t]hat was the second time I heard someone say that is what you need to do. And I thought that they don't know all the reasons why I can't do this."
In 1999, as James faced graduation, he began looking into graduate schools. No doors opened and he graduated from Truett coming to the realization that he did not feel lead to minister to youth long term and still thinking that he could not preach. He and Teri decided they needed a change, so they moved to Houston and began attending Tallowood Baptist Church where Duane Brooks was senior pastor. James developed a friendship with Duane and was asked to preach several times. Duane affirmed his gift for preaching and encouraged him to accept a pastoral internship position at Tallowood.
Through the next three years, James was mentored and nurtured by Duane and the staff at Tallowood. He says that Duane validated his gifts and spoke prophetically about his calling. Reflecting over Duane's prophetic voice in his ministry James says, "I think prophetically you have the power to say something into someone's life with your words and make it true. I think that part of the image of God is our ability to speak [God's] truth to life in their life. And so, him saying that probably spurred me to work hard at it and really I had been given tools at Truett that I hadn't put to use." James says that Duane told him that "preaching is God's word through your personality. You don't have to be anybody else and God has a place for that exactly." James was inspired by those words and began to grow into his calling as a pastor. As his time as a pastoral intern closed, he entered into several conversations with churches about becoming their pastor. Harris Creek was one of those churches, and the only church where he and Teri left thinking and saying that they want to be those people's pastor.
James says that God brought him and his family to Harris Creek and back to the Waco area for a reason. He says "we are seeking to be a church that is 'seeking the welfare of the city.' Jeremiah tells the exiles that God has planted you in a particular place, you are there for a reason, so you are to seek the peace or the shalom around you...God has planted us in a place for a certain time...and that reason is the opportunity to be apart of [God's] kingdom."