Today we are highlighting the life of Karen Pawson. Gordon and Karen are relatively new to Crossway….they came in December 2009…..and so this is really fun to help you get to know her more. Gordon and Karen have been married for 14 years now, and have 4 children (Elisa, 12–Seth, 10–Kyle, 6–and Mackenzie, 3) They just started as care group leaders this summer.
Both Gordon and Karen come to us with a depth of experience and character that is a true gift to this church. Karen has such a beautiful, soft smile. When you sit to talk to her, you begin to realize that she has a special ability to listen well…..ask good questions….and a kind heart that is truly concerned about you. She knows what it’s like to trust the Lord in real life. She went from being a single woman…..to being a pastor’s wife with 2 words….”I do”. In taking that step, she gave up any expectation of having her husband all to herself. She was willing to serve the Lord and His people from the very beginning of married life.
Karen, how did you become a Christian? I am blessed to have grown up in a Christian home. My father was the only pastor of several different conservative Baptist churches in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada; so we moved on average about every 5 years. I was 4 years old when I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior. From my earliest memories I desired a personal relationship with the Lord, and my faith continued to grow over all my growing up years. My faith was very real and important to me as I attended a public school and felt like I was the only Christian there. Observing my parents giving their lives in serving the Lord as I grew up created in me a desire to serve Him with my life also. As a teenager, I began serving in different church ministries as well as counseling at a Christian camp in the summers. In college I travelled with a music ministry team for 10 week summer tours, and this further increased my desire to be involved in full-time ministry. I loved counseling and discipling teen-age girls, and I changed my college major to Christian Education and Youth Ministry. I began to believe that God was calling me to be a pastor’s wife. However, it was several years later that God brought that pastor-to-be into my life!
Where do you see God working in your life? Through these last few years, God has revealed how much self-righteousness and pride is in my heart. I wouldn’t desire to relive those 2 years of pain and trials again, and yet I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I’m so thankful for God’s grace to us in not leaving us in the state we were in, but allowing painful circumstances in our lives to bring about change in our hearts. I am still struggling to find my “place” as this is the first time of my life that I have not been a pastor’s daughter or a pastor’s wife. I think that it is very easy for me to trust God with big changes or trials in my life, but much more difficult to trust Him in the daily struggles. I read this verse this morning, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.” (Ps. 68:19) I long to experience the God of my salvation and practice His presence in my daily, routine tasks! That’s why I am so thankful for the emphasis in our church on how the gospel applies to every part of my life!
How did you and Gordon find your way to Crossway? There’s so much to this story that I’m not sure I can condense it very well, but I’ll do my best. Gordon and I married in 1997 believing that God was calling him to become the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Millinocket, Maine. We loved pastoral ministry, even though there were many challenges as we came to a broken and hurting church that had just experienced a church split. After 6 years there, God began to speak to us in our devotional times that He was preparing to move us elsewhere. We loved where we were and had no desire to leave, but were open to follow God’s leading. A church in the Pittsburgh area called and asked if Gordon was willing to submit his resume`. This church had also experienced a painful church split, and had heard of the process Gordon walked our church in Maine through. We also had a clear sense of direction from the Lord that this was where He was leading us, and moved to Murrysville, PA in 2003. It was while we were there, that we learned of Sovereign Grace. Two of the elders in our church had grown children who attended Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD. They were so impressed with the growth and changes they saw in their children that they began sharing with us. They would pass on different books to us and recommend sermons of CJ and other SG pastors. These 2 couples wanted so badly for us to experience Sovereign Grace that they paid our way to a Leadership Conference and babysat our kids for those few days.
Gordon and I felt like we had come home. We were seeing and experiencing what we had been “trying” to make our churches into. We didn’t know a church with this mixture of doctrinal beliefs existed. From that day forward, we had become “Sovereign Grace” at heart. Within a year after that, God took our church through a difficult time of testing. One of the key families in the church, and our dear friends, decided to leave the church. This had a ripple effect and several others eventually left. At this point, our church was no longer able to financially support us full-time. God provided Gordon with a used-car salesman job. He worked full-time and continued to pastor. Only a few months later, the economy crashed and car sales as well, so Gordon was laid off.
Gordon began working several part-time jobs….one of which was for Noble Real Estate. Our church was essentially like a church plant again, and began to explore being adopted by Sovereign Grace. Gordon was feeling more and more in danger of burnout, but didn’t feel at peace leaving the church without a shepherd. We were grateful for several Sovereign Grace pastors who were counseling Gordon through this time. Finally, God gave us peace about Gordon resigning as pastor, although we didn’t know what would happen to us! (A month later, God provided a bi-vocational church planting pastor for that church.)
After leaving (February 2009), we began to attend the Sovereign Grace church in Indiana, PA and became members. God taught us so much in that year as we sat under their leadership and as we trusted God to provide for our needs and saw Him faithfully working on our behalf. We were strongly assured of God’s love for us and experienced much healing. Later that year, Gordon was offered a full-time job with Noble Real Estate if we would move here for 6-12 months of training. After about 4 or 5 months of being here we began to feel a little torn about leaving and moving back to Pittsburgh, as we were getting attached to people here at Crossway. We surrendered it all to God and prayed that He would make His will clear. In June 2010, Noble asked if Gordon would be willing to remain here and we believed God was leading us to stay, and so here we are and very grateful to be here with you all! We are resting secure in God’s sovereignty and seeking to soak up as much learning and growth as we can in this season of our lives.