When you stop fighting God

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Meet another member of South Florida's many-sided faith community. This week we're talking with the Rev. Terry Scalzitti, discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale.

Q: How did you get into your vocation?

A: I was interning at First Baptist's singles ministry. I kept telling God, "I don't want to become a pastor." I set him three tests: to confirm the calling through friends, to confirm it through a stranger, and to break my heart. All three happened within a week.

Q: How was your heart broken?

A: At a state camp in Ocala, I heard a pastor say, "Someone is fighting the call to ministry. Stop fighting." That hit my heart. I called my fiancee and said, "You were planning to marry a teacher and coach, but now you'll be marrying a pastor."

Q: Has it worked out?

A: Oh, yes. Here, I teach a lot, and I travel internationally each year. Every year, I use my skills to go lead a baseball camp. Last summer I went to Nicaragua.

Q: How do you like to relax?

A: Baseball with my 4-year-old. He can already play!

Q: What's your favorite vacation spot?

A: Kauai, Hawaii. We went there of our five-year anniversary. It was gorgeous, quiet, remote.

Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows?

A: "Raymond" reruns. My family is Italian, so I can relate to the family dynamics.

Q: How about favorite film(s)?

A: "Field of Dreams." I liked the father-son relationship, connected with baseball.

Q: Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?

A: Taylor Swift. Her messages are pretty real.

Q: What person in history would you like most to meet?

A: FDR and Churchill, during World War II. I'd love to chat in a war room with them. I'd see what they were faced with, and how they made their decisions.

Q: Do you have a treasured possession?

A: My mom passed away when I was 15. Her engagement ring was passed on to me. We've kept it as an heirloom.

Q: If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

A: "How can you love us so much?" through history, I see us many times self-centered, prideful. We often don't think of him. Yet he sent his Son to die for us.

Q: Your most memorable spiritual experience?

A: I had the privilege to go to Nicaragua with Larry Thompson (First Baptist's pastor). We ministered to people who were living right on the city dump, in tents. I talked with a young boy. He wanted to know Jesus. It brought me to tears.

Q: What's the best sermon you ever preached?

A: "Upon This Rock," while I was filling in for Larry Thompson three years ago. I gave everyone a stone to keep in their pockets or on their desks as a reminder that they are never alone, that Christ is with them.

Q: Your worst moment in the pulpit?

A: I was at a baseball camp in Nicaragua in 2011, sharing a message with some youths. There was a tree with a honeybee nest, and a burning tire was bringing them out to sting the kids. Finally I said, "I have no more control! Let's get out ofhere!"

Q: Something most people don't know about you?

A: When I was 8 years old, I played an organ for the Lowry Company. I played at a mall to get people to come into the store. Another thing is that when I was 15, I represented Florida at the Junior Olympics. I won a bronze medal.

Q: Is there one thing you can't stand?

A: Cabbage: the smell and the taste.

Q: What's the most important thing you've ever learned?

A: It's important not only to grow as an individual, but to pour yourself into other individuals.

Q: Have you ever doubted your faith?

A: No, I don't think so. I accepted Christ at the age of 18. It was the worst year for me culturally and with peer pressure, but it was great spiritually.

Q: Motto, or favorite scripture verse?

A: Matthew 6:33: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

James D. Davis

More about Scalzitti

Title: Discipleship pastor, First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale; executive director, Next Generation Learning Center Preschool at the church.

Other job experience: Former social studies teacher, and baseball coach, at McArthur High School, xxx Hollywood.

Education: Degree in social studies, Florida International University; master's degree in practical theology, Regent University; studying for a doctorate in ministry from Regent.

Personal: Age 37. Born in Oakland Park, Ill..

Family: Married to Jennifer, a physical therapist for special needs children at Abi's Place, Coral Springs. One child.

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