It’s about 650 miles from Midland, Texas to Rogers, AR and for the David and Kristen Ayres family it is a dramatic change of scenery. David is our new associate minister at Southside and he began his work with us on September 17. At the time of our conversation today, his bookcases were empty, awaiting the contents of the boxes piled up in his new office.
The Ayres family lives with the Grant and Amy Fowler family and are looking for a home to buy in northwest Arkansas as soon as their home closes in Midland, which should be sometime in the next few weeks. They have three children—Ava who is 8, Jacob is 6, and Matthew is 18 months. Kristen is an oncology nurse and, of course, a busy mom!
Here is an excerpted and sometimes paraphrased portion of a conversation I had with David.
PW: Where were you born?
David: I was born in Irving, Texas. Home of the Dallas Cowboys. Our house was 2 minutes from the original stadium. My dad is city librarian in Irving and is about to retire. He’s done that for 30 years. Mom has done all kinds of things. She had a stay-at-home daycare, so she got to stay with us when we were little. I grew up at the South MacArthur Church of Christ.
PW: When did you decide to go into ministry?
David: All I’ve ever really wanted to be was a preacher. I remember watching The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and being captivated by that story and I wanted to somehow connect myself to that story. By age 11 I knew I wanted to be a preacher. At an All- Sons-Retreat they had at South MacArthur I remember the 13-year-old boys ended the event with the adults praying over us and I remember being prayed over to become a minister. Preached my first sermon at age 15 or 16 at a little church, Pilot Point Church of Christ (Texas), when they needed a preacher to fill-in and my dad did the songleading. I remember preaching on Psalm 136.
It was then that David decided that he was going to go to Abilene Christian University and receive training to become a preacher. He completed 7 continuous years of school, eventually earning his B.A. and then his M.Div. from ACU.
PW: How did you and Kristen meet?
David: She’s four years older than me. She was in high school when I was in middle school and luckily did not remember me. When I graduated high school, I started attending the college class at South MacArthur and she was home for the summer and she attended the same class and we started to get to know one another. About two weeks before I went to college, we started dating. She was the first girl I ever kissed.
David dated Kristen his freshman year. They were engaged his sophomore year in college. They were married the summer before his junior year and Kristen became pregnant with Ava and they became parents before he finished his senior year. He remembered being late for a final because he was with Kristen at her first sonogram. He took a copy of the sonogram to his professor as an explanation as to why he was late for his final exam. He also remembered he didn’t do very well on that Greek final.
PW: How do you think your experience at South Mac shaped you spiritually?
David: South MacArthur wasn’t a legalistic Church of Christ. So, I grew up with a really positive experience of church. My best friends were people I went to church with. We lived in a neighborhood where there were a bunch of families from church. Those are wonderful memories of our church community. We would walk into each other’s houses without asking. We were in one another’s homes all the time. I had several other “co-parents” “aunts” and “uncles” raising me.
As for the spirit of “South Mac” church David remembered this:
The church itself was aware of its history, knew its baggage, and moved on beyond that. So, I don’t carry a lot of that baggage, which is a gift. It was a safe place to ask questions. I learned to think theologically from my middle school Bible class teacher who was my best friend’s dad, Roy Davis. We would just open up the Bible and we would read and have a debate. He would ask, “What do you think this means?” Every opinion was welcome, and you had to defend your position with scripture and reason. It was a safe place to ask questions and think through things. It was a rich, fertile ground for me.
David was baptized at age 15. He recalled hesitating in making a decision, being concerned if he could actually live as a Christian. He said, “I fretted over it.” But one Wednesday night he read a line from Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life that stated, “It’s not about you.” That statement relieved his mind and he made his decision to follow Jesus in baptism. He was baptized that night by his dad.
PW: Tell me some of your early impressions of being at Southside.
David: So welcoming. So friendly. I was weeping during church yesterday when you guys prayed with us. There was another couple that came, several families that prayed, just the kindness that you’ve shown us is much appreciated. You can tell this is a church family that loves one another well and we’re already receiving that.
We welcome the Ayres Family into the Southside Family!