To some, Justin Crouse’s
decision might have made little sense.
For more than seven years,
Crouse worked his way up from the mailroom in the Lowe’s Home Improvement
Warehouse corporate offices to the point where he was drawing blueprints for
new stores. With annual sales of more than $47 billion, Lowe’s is the
second-largest hardware chain in the world.
The job was a good one,
stable and relatively secure.
Crouse had also served as
youth minister at West Yadkin Baptist Church in Hamptonville since February
2008. When the previous pastor left in 2009, the church asked Crouse to step in
as interim and then called him permanently. Going full time made Crouse an even
“It was time intensive,”
says Crouse, 30, who is evidently a master of understatement.
Crouse always had to walk
the balance beam between work and ministry. Countless bi-vocational ministers
around the world can relate with Crouse’s situation.
“For two years, I did both —
I did the store plans and served as youth pastor,” Crouse remembers. “The store
planner job was mentally intensive during the day, and then I would come home
and work some nights until I went to bed, trying to study and research for
youth lessons. It was tough. You come home and you’re just mentally drained,
and you sit down and flip on your other computer again.”
In the midst of all that,
Crouse continued to coach football at local schools. Something had to give.
In May Crouse stepped down
from his role in the Lowe’s home office in Mooresville. And while he stayed
with the company, the 2002 graduate of Piedmont Baptist College now works part
time on the loading dock in the chain’s Elkin store.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays, Crouse clocks in at 5 a.m. and typically finishes by noon to allow
time for his ministry duties.
His wife, Jessica, was
cautious but supportive of what her husband was about to do. Asked if anyone
else questioned the move, Crouse simply laughed.
“For me, I knew it was what
God wanted me to do,” the young pastor says.
“In that respect, it was an
easy decision for me. Several people said, ‘Are you sure this is what you want
to do? Are you sure this is a good decision? You’re giving up this and giving
up that.’ I said, ‘I’m safer giving that up than I am holding on to it.’”
The decision to scale back
at Lowe’s was not made lightly. Crouse began work as a temporary employee in
the mailroom in October 2002, and he eventually joined the store environment
and operations departments. He helped set up new stores, which led to designing
the layout for locations about to be opened.
“It was a great job,” Crouse
says. “It could be stressful at times, but it was a really good job. I came in,
did my work and went home. I had a really good experience.”
As busy as he had been,
actually shepherding a flock in his first full-time pastorate is yet another
huge leap in responsibility. Ready or not, Crouse was willing to take the
“There were second- and
third-hand conversations where people said, ‘Is he ready for that?’” Crouse
“Satan would put thoughts in
my mind, ‘You’re not ready for this. You’re just 30 years old,’ that type of
thing. I finally got to the point where I said, ‘You know what? If I wait until
I’m ready, I’ll never do it.’
“It doesn’t matter whether
I’m ready or not, anyway. Moses wasn’t ready when God told him to go. It’s
whether God’s ready for me, not whether I’m ready for God.”
Full-time ministry had
always been a goal of Crouse’s, although he probably didn’t expect it to happen
as quickly as it did. He’d been an interim pastor at a church in Wilkesboro and
he’d served as music leader for a Charlotte congregation. Step by step, he was
“The Lord’s really made it
clear to me that I need to work on His timetable and quit trying to force my
timetable on Him,” Crouse says.
As Crouse closes in on a
year at the helm of West Yadkin Baptist, members of the congregation have been
there for their new pastor and he’s been there for them. He calls the last
several months “wonderful.”
“I think things are going
well,” Crouse concludes. “I don’t have any agenda, other than to promote
harmony and hold the body together.”