Pastor Chris Buskirk
He strides to the podium with the grace of an athlete and addresses the congregation with the confidence of someone born to the pulpit. But that's far from true, according to Pastor Chris Buskirk who was admittedly terrified of becoming a preacher. He clearly recalls his dad's comment: "Chris, I'm amazed to see the growth in your pastoral heart."
The son of popular preacher Dr. James Buskirk and mother Nancy, he grew up with a strong Christian influence in his life. "When I was young Jesus was my best imaginary friend. Throughout life I had 'field day' experiences where God showed Himself real to me."
In high school, Chris found much of his identity in sports."Then, my athletic hopes were shattered. Basketball and soccer were important to me, but I was out of sports due to a knee injury," Chris said. Mike Means, sponsor of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was a big influence in my life, probably without even realizing it. When circumstances caused Mike to have to back away from leadership of the organization, he encouraged Chris to invest his attention and energies into the group. During this time, Jenks FCA grew from 15 to 150 members and because a significant part of Chris' Christian walk.
Following high school, Chris pursued pre-med studies at ORU and was planning to become a doctor. However he began feeling empty and as he sought career-related work as an orderly, every door seemed to be shut. "I was reluctant, timid, and lacking in confidence," explained Chris. "I never thought I could measure up. I feared failure and didn't see myself as worthy."
He rejected the idea of a career in the church, and continued his studies. Finally, he was offered a summer job as a youth director in a church in Hobbs, New Mexico. "That summer I saw that God could use even me as me for His purposes," said Chris. "I said, 'God if you'll keep doing this . . .'"
Chris completed his undergraduate studies at Oral Roberts University, earning his bachelor's degree in 1986 and his Masters in Divinity at Candler School of Theology in 1989. His first pastorate was Midway United Methodist Church in Auburn, Georgia. Due to a devastating divorce, his time in Georgia was a painful time in Chris' life. "This experience helped me understand that I am a fellow struggler in this life.
His next assignment was as Preaching Associate at First United Methodist Church of Houston where he served for two years. A pulpit-centered church, the church had two campuses and he alternated preaching with Dr. Bill Hinson, Senior Pastor. While Chris benefited from his time in Houston, he began to have a vision for a different kind of church. "I had begun my doctorate studies in church growth, but before I finished I was offered an opportunity to start a cell church in Tulsa. I was surprised; I didn't expect to return to my hometown."
But his time in Houston was well spent; it was there that he gained notable preaching experience and met his wife Cheryl. Chris fondly recalls their meeting. "She called the church and wanted to start a small group study (Crown Ministries). Speaking by phone he agreed to meet her at the church to discuss the possibilities. "This angel walked in and as a faithful minister I followed up on that. They led the group together and later formed a permanent partnership. Now having been wed for 11 years, Chris is quick to sing her praises. "Cheryl is tenacious about the truth and lives an uncompromised life. She really challenges me all the time. It shows in her parenting of our children and has made me a much holier man than I used to be."
Cheryl and Chris have three blonde children: Courtney, and twins, David and Jonathan. Chris is thankful for the blessings of his family. Of Courtney he relates that she has a "delightfully loving heart for others." At one time she even told her parents that God told her to be a missionary.
Jonathan and David have "man-sized hearts in their young bodies. Jonathan has a heightened sense of fairness and David seems to be our comedian."
Under Chris' leadership, Abiding Harvest United Methodis has evolved from a 50-member group meeting in a garage, school, and store-front space to its current facility with 370 active and committed members.
The concept of a "cell church" is somewhat cross current to the culture. "Our goal is to have 80 percent participation in home groups. I want this to be a care-net for the whole church. The idea is that as a cell is part of the body, home groups are a part of the spiritual body that is Abiding Harvest. In that way, the whole body gets nourished. The comprehensive care that is given is mutual within the group rather than being provided by the staff. In this instance, discipleship is seen in a real life context.
"In this simple way, home groups would deliver on the major components of the church," said Chris. "We don't major on the filler—endless activities—but people get connected and then are released as agents into the world."
Pastor Buskirk is definitely a one-on-one man who gets jazzed about seeing the lights coming on in a person. "I love to see people awakening to the idea that God wants to be their dearest life partner. I want to see them recognize God at work in their life and turn to trust Him with that recognition."
Then he added, "There's nothing more engaging and real than the church being the church."