Newly Installed Pastor Defies Doubts
By Jeff Hayes
“The lyrics to the Lauren Daigle song ‘You Say’ really speak to my story,” reveals the newly installed senior pastor at First Church of God in Owensboro, Kentucky. She specifically draws attention to these lyrics:
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough;
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know.”*
In the midst of challenging times, Pastor Cindy Shaw was installed as senior pastor of the Owensboro First Church of God on January 17, 2021. Despite early acceptance of female preachers in the Church of God, Pastor Shaw understands the struggles that women in ministry often face when they step into the pulpit, or sit at the head of the leadership table. “In the past, I’ve had persons get up and walk out after my introduction,” recalls Shaw.
In both subtle and not-so-subtle ways, Pastor Shaw has experienced persons rejecting and not validating her call and gifts simply because she was a woman. “Fortunately, I’m not the first woman called to pastor the Owensboro church,” recounts Cindy. “It is already exciting to see what God is doing! We have a baptism planned for Easter.”
The daughter of a Nazarene preacher, Cindy first answered the call to ministry at the age of thirteen. The actualization of that call did not happen overnight, and it certainly did not take the easiest path. Numerous personal and institutional challenges slowed and impeded her journey along the way. “There were many times when I was not sure I was qualified or that I was enough,” states Shaw. When she was thirty-six, Cindy went back to school and became a registered nurse and tended to God’s calling through her patients and those in her care.
In 2006, when her physician’s assistant husband Everett received his own call to the ministry, Cindy felt her original call renewed, too. “We decided it was time to leave the place where we had become comfortable and prepare ourselves for bivocational ministry together. I had been a church volunteer for over thirty years; I was ready,” states Cindy. “So we surprised everyone, uprooted and moved to Illinois to prepare and serve.”
Cindy was hired to coordinate Leadership Focus for Illinois State Ministries. She and Everett also had the opportunity to serve two congregations as a bivocational pastoral team. “Although Everett often took the lead, we were both at ease stepping in and out of shared pastoral roles. After the Owensboro church called me to be their lead pastor,” states Cindy, “I asked Everett, my husband of forty years, to be my associate.”
Pastor Cindy shares, “As a woman, I had to find my own voice and learn not to try to be like anyone else. I can only be who God called me to be. I am particularly thankful for persons like Rev. Eric Livingston, Rev. Jeanette Flynn, and Rev. Joy Sherman for supporting, mentoring, and showing me the way to believe in my own giftedness.”
May the calling that God has given take root in each of us just as Pastor Cindy continues to listen and obediently follow. As she cares for the congregation in Owensboro, she hopes to use her own story of self-discovery to encourage others to do the same. May we believe in what God sees in each of us.
Rev. Dr. Jeff Hayes has served on ministry leadership teams in Kentucky, Western Pennsylvania, and Ohio. He recently completed eighteen years of service on the ministry faculty at Warner University and provides leadership to a new ministry, the Way of Compassion. He resides in Winter Haven, Florida, with his wife Karen.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
*Lauren Daigle. Lyrics to “You Say” from the album Look Up Child, 2018. https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/laurendaigle/yousay.html