Q and A with Pastor Burton Lowry
How long have you been at Ellsworth Assembly as lead pastor, and what brought you here?
We came here in 1986, so its been over three decades. Time flies when you're having fun! We believe God brought us here, and this is a wonderful church to serve in.
What are your favorite things in pastoring?
Teaching the Word and seeing God work in hearts. The beautiful working of the Holy Spirit is always amazing to see! Now that I'm older, helping raise up younger people in works of service is thrilling.
What is your perspective on church and ministry?
Churches are not perfect, but Jesus calls us to love His church even where there are the blemishes and warts. (This is not saying we excuse sins that disqualify.) But we keep working for Him through all our struggles. For instance, the common cold or flu can really mess up getting things done! One pastor said it well, “This isn't a party boat—it's a fishing vessel.” And, “It isn't about you.” That is, nobody gets to be lazy on a fishing vessel—we all do what we can for the mission. “There are pray-ers, and stay-ers, and go-ers, and pay-ers.” We are all called to be one or more of these all the time.
What is your vision for this area?
That everyone can hear the true message of Jesus in a way they can understand.
What are the hindrances to that?
They go from intellectual arrogance to broken lives through family dysfunction and addiction. The churches in Downeast Maine have been their own worst enemy with infighting and splits. This is known and seen by the community. The watered-down message of “accept Jesus to know you are going to heaven” has inoculated many from true saving faith, and they are thus jaded to true conversion through repentance. Many dismiss the Bible without having read any of it. Churches in New England are either tolerated or ignored. Mostly the latter, as we have become mostly irrelevant to daily life for the majority.
What do you love about Ellsworth Assembly?
The people. There is a beautiful family of God here—people learning to love and serve God together. Our theme is, “Come as you are—Dare to change.” That's a process we are in together. There is safety and love here—enough for people to be transparent. Sharon and I are so blessed to be here!
Your favorite Bible verse?
I don't have one. Ephesians, chapters one through three are a continual feast, as is Matthew, chapters five through seven. The parables of Jesus, in their historical context, keep me spellbound at Jesus. Every day I am in the Psalms.
Where did you grow up?
I'm still working on growing up. :-) I was born in Portland, Oregon. Due to the deaths of my parents, when I was nine years old, we four siblings went three ways. I thank God that after I got moved around a bit, the Pinkham's—my Uncle, Aunt, and two cousins in Medford, Oregon, took me and my older brother in. It was not easy for the Pinkham family. I will ever be indebted to them.
When did you become a follower of Jesus?
Due to a number of things in my childhood, I was full of bitterness, depression, and anger. Outwardly, I could put on a good face—but my heart was full of poison, and I fantasized about committing crimes. I was about sixteen, suicidal, a pothead, and hopeless. I finally prayed, “God, if you are real, show me or I'm checking out.” Twice I almost shot myself with a Colt .38 Special. God orchestrated a number of things to reveal Himself to me and I was transformed by Him.
Where did you go to college?
University of Oregon (two years) and Eugene Bible College [now New Hope Christian College] for four years. I also tried to pass an accounting class at Lane Community College—dropped that class so I wouldn't get a bad grade—and took some theology classes at Northwest Christian College.
Why the change in colleges?
A call to pastoral ministry. I went to the U of O when I was seventeen but was without direction as I was really following the steps of my big brother (Doug) who was killed the year before. There I joined Chi Alpha Ministries and was discipled under Jim Carmichael, a campus pastor. At one of their retreats I just knew God was calling me to pastor.
Did you enter the ministry after your theology degree?
Sharon and I were married before graduation but became discouraged by a number of things we saw as we sought a ministry position. Fed up with it all, I told God I would never be a pastor. For seven years I ran from that call from God while being self-employed and very involved in church. I served on our church board with some great men. I worked building houses. Our family grew with three children added. The housing market collapsed, and we went broke losing nearly all we had. We got into wholesale distribution of maps and developed over five hundred accounts. One night I had an electrifying vision of Christ returning—this was no regular dream! Him I did not see; but the clouds were being torn open, and I knew I was disobedient to that call.
So you followed that call?
Yes. How ironic that the very thing I was running from has been so wonderful! The things of God—like the Old Testament tabernacle covered with animal skins--can look ugly on the outside but be beautiful once you enter. We served one wonderful year at Neighborhood Assembly in Eugene, Oregon, under my Chi Alpha pastor from years before. It was a way to get my name on a door, sell our business to Rand McNally, and follow God's call East.
Why did you come to Maine?
That's a long story. If interested I can share.
Your family is musical....
Yes. Best known is our son Jon. He writes music and tours with the Christian band Unspoken. Musical gifting is often idolized among Christians—but God gives all gifts, and all are needed to complete the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul put it in perspective, What do you have that you have not received? (I Cor. 4:7)
That said, I feel carried to heaven when Sharon plays piano during prayer times! I've written many songs, play guitar, harmonica, and tin whistle. Daughter Michelle plays piano and helps with music at her church; our son Michael is a gifted song writer, drummer and guitarist—he can play about anything he picks up. Daughter Anna played Celtic harp. Her husband, Kyle, is a gifted pianist and worship leader in Virginia Beach. Son-in-law Seth says he can play the radio.
We have two granddaughters and two grandsons. Researching and learning anything. Reading, reading, and reading. Amateur radio (General Class, K7HVN). Current events, history, sociology. As to study, there is simply nothing like the Bible. Fun things are: running a tractor and chainsaw, art, music, boating, cooking, gardening.
What are you not good at?
Numbers. Board and card games. Keeping things neat, like my desk. Relaxing.
Anything else you'd like to mention?
I love my wife. What a blessing she is! I knew I wanted to marry her when I met her, as I knew she would always love and serve God with her whole heart. And she has. She prefers to serve Him in quiet ways. She is my best friend and confidant.
Secondly, don't give up. Through many long battles over the years, we have found that everyone has weak areas or brokenness in life. Our tendency is to want God to deliver us out of these things. But more often, God brings us through them. The victory is not that these are miraculously removed, but that we use them to press us to a deeper walk in Christ and a daily death to self. Thus, He is our victory. Then, he uses these victories in us to help others. (II Cor. 1)
What about life in New England compared to the west coast?
It was much easier out west for the average person to earn a living. There was a lot more leisure time, and the climate was easy to deal with. Life here can be a continual struggle. But this leads to a depth of faith we seldom saw in the west, and we are deeply touched by the sincerity of faith in this church. There was a lot more shallow Christianity out west. Here, “family of God” is not just a time-worn phrase, it is reality.
Matt grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota. He felt a call to ministry, so in 2009 he enrolled at Trinity Bible College in North Dakota. This is where he met and married his wife, Ashley. After graduating in 2013 with a degree in Biblical Studies and Pastoral with a concentration in youth, Matt and Ashley felt called to the Northeast, specifically Maine, They packed up a big yellow moving truck and drove nearly 2000 miles to Ellsworth.
As a youth pastor, my desire is to see young people discipled in Christ. I pray that we would create a generation that is solid and equipped in their faith.