Voices of faith: Pastor has seen many changes in Gwinnett over the years

The Rev. Jim Street - or, as he prefers, plain "Jim" - has been in Christian ministry for 34 years. At age 57, he pastors North River Community Church in Lawrenceville.

Street is excited about a ministry at his church that raises funds to dig wells in the Caribbean and in Latin America. Members of the ministry, "4:4 No More," sell bottled water at various locations and events to fund the projects.

The church will host a concert from Christian vocalist Ashley Cleveland at 8 p.m. Oct. 13 to raise money for the ministry, too.

Over the years, Street has seen many changes in the Gwinnett worship landscape, and he believes he's a better minister for it.

Q: How and when did you know that this is what you wanted to do as your life's work?

A: My parents had always taken me to church, and in time I just knew that this is what I was to do.

Q: Did you ever consider a different career?

A: I've done several different things, but I've always pastored along with them. I was a college professor and a seminary professor in past years.

Q: Who would you say was the greatest influence on you and your choice?

A: I can't really say it was a "who," but rather a "what." My choice was a cumulative effort from a lot of people, like Sunday school teachers.

But I had a first cousin who died very suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at a very young age. It was a profound experience. You also have to remember the era - the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War were going on. I turned very philosophical and was searching spiritually.

Q: What would you say is the most challenging thing about your job?

A: (Laughing) That it's me doing it. I think someone more talented and a lot smarter should be doing this. I mean, really, I'm the challenge - my expectations, my impatience, all those things.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing?

A: Oh, the people. Being a part of their lives, especially in the most critical times, is something most people don't get to do.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person considering entering the ministry, what would it be?

A: Develop a second skill, preferably one that will help you in your ministry. There are big changes afoot in how we do "church."

Not everyone who chooses to do this will make a living at it. Studies predict a decline in the number of Christians over the next 25 years. Churches fragment, and they don't always require a full-time paid pastor. People meet in their homes, in Starbucks - things are changing.

Q: What are your long-term goals as pastor of this church?

A: To get better and better at the fundamentals. I compare our church here to the USDA food pyramid. Jesus is at the bottom, because we need more of him. Then there's discipleship, then missions, and at the top, the smallest portion, is politics. So to learn how to follow Jesus and make him known, that's my goal for our church.

Q: Who would you most like to meet, and why?

A: Martin Luther King, and I don't know whether I should say this, but Oprah. She's very influential, and she uses her influence for good. I don't always agree with her ideas, but to have that kind of influence, gosh ... .

Q: If you had to name one thing that's changed the most in Gwinnett's worship and religious trends over the years, what would it be?

A: I started in Lawrenceville 34 years ago at First Christian Church, with hair down past my shoulders. What an accepting group of people they were!

But I think one of the biggest changes is portable technology. It's changed the way we worship. Also, there just is no such thing as a country church in Gwinnett anymore. There's no more country!

Q: What is your favorite scripture, and why?

A: Romans 8:38-39. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I had a virus that went to my heart about five years ago and was in the hospital for about 15 days. I realized then that it didn't matter whether I lived or died; either way I would be in the love of Christ.

North River Community Church is located at 1725 Spectrum Drive in Lawrenceville. For more information about the church, service times and ministries, visit www.northriverchurch.us.

Each week, the Daily Post profiles a different religious leader in Gwinnett. If you have a suggestion on who we should profile next, e-mail features@gwinnettdailypost.com.