Christian Assembly pastor heard the call at 15, heeded it at 45
Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series on answering the call to ministry.
DURHAM -- The Rev. Dub Karriker’s journey to the pulpit included Jesus music, singing on a cruise ship and landing in his wife’s hometown. Pastor of Christian Assembly Church since 2002, Karriker shared his story of answering the call to ministry and the 30 years it took to get there.
Karriker, 57, grew up in a small town in Arkansas near the Louisiana border, and was active in church.
“It was just more like something we did, you know? Then when I was 15, a guy came to town and had a series of meetings in the football stadium,” Karriker said. It was the early 1970s. His town had one movie theater, but not even a McDonald’s. His friends were going to the traveling evangelist’s crusade meeting, so he went, too.
“That night changed my life,” Karriker said. The speaker was James Robison, who is now in television ministry. “As I sat there that night in the stadium, I listened to him talk and realized I was a sinner and needed to fix my relationship with God, and the way to do that was Jesus Christ.”
Karriker said in his church he hadn’t been told – or didn’t hear – that the things he did wrong were sinning against God and he needed to confess.
“All my friends got saved around the same time,” he said.
Churches in town filled up with teenagers wanting to be involved. It was also a time of ‘Jesus music,’ the precursor to the contemporary Christian music scene. Karriker and his friends formed a band and traveled around. He planned to become a music minister. It was a really cool time, Karriker said. He just knew he ought to be in ministry.
Then in college, other Christians on campus told Karriker he had to speak in tongues to really be saved. He thought that was weird and said “no thanks.” He spent a few hours alone with God questioning if he should speak in tongues, then rejected it. He got mad at the students for questioning if he was a Christian. Then he got mad at God, too, for letting it happen.
“I told God to leave me alone, and for the next 12 years, I got very far away from anything to do with Christianity,” Karriker said. He finished college and went on to graduate school and became a professional singer. He was trained in opera and sung at dinner theaters, on cruise ships and at theme parks. Along the way he met his wife, Pam Karriker, who also was a professional singer.
“The thing is, I never stopped believing in God, I just ignored him,” Dub Karriker said. But the couple felt God trying to reconnect with them, and they wanted to find out what that meant. So, visiting his hometown, they went to church and asked a pastor what to do. The pastor said to live like Christians they needed to find a new line of work. Singing was their livelihood.
“We went away from that encounter pretty sad,” Karriker said. They went back to work on a few cruise ships, then Pam Karriker became very ill and they knew they’d have to get off the road. Then they lost their jobs on a cruise ship in Hawaii, and other professional plans fell apart.
“At that point I realized this was God,” Karriker said. “On a pier in Maui, I told God I’m tired of fighting with you – from now on wherever you want me to be, whatever you want me to do, that’s what I’ll do,” Karriker said.
They asked a different pastor what to do. The pastor told them they needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and prayed for them.
“It was like a dam broke inside both of us, flooding us with God’s love and presence,” Karriker said.
In 1985, they went to visit Pam Karriker’s parents where she grew up – in Durham.
The Karrikers tried a few churches, and felt at home the first Sunday they attended Christian Assembly Church. Christian Assembly is nondenominational church. The people were warm and friendly and welcomed them in.
“It’s still that kind of church,” Karriker said.
They found new careers – she in banking, and he starting out as a vacuum clerk and repairman and working his way up to vice president of operations in another company.
“I’m starting to sound like an Andy Griffith story,” Karriker said, as he talked about it during an interview in his church office this week.
Karriker became an active volunteer at church, serving several years as worship leader, an elder and youth pastor. He also began seminary training through a church network, and was ordained in 2000 at age 45. He hoped to succeed Christian Assembly founding pastor, the Rev. Paul Gordon, who was like a dad to him. Gordon passed away in 2002, and during the last years of his illness, had already passed on some pastoral duties to Karriker.
Karriker has been senior pastor at Christian Assembly in Northern Durham for 11 years now.
“I really felt like this was where God wanted me,” he said.