It's the people that makes Mississippi feel like home for Rev. Lauren Porter

By JASON PATTERSON,
Rev. Lauren Porter was born in Sioux City, Iowa, but he didn’t stay there long enough to really consider it his hometown.
He never stayed anywhere for an extended period of time.
“I’m from a little bit of all over,” he says. 
Porter was the son of a preacher who frequently moved on to serve new churches, and Porter’s father was the son of an Air Force man who relocated all over the country during the course of his career. Moving on to new places was just the way of life for the Porter family.
Some of the friends Porter has made along the way have questioned why he has chosen to make Mississippi his home out of all the places he has been.
“Have you met the people?” is Porter’s response. “The people in Mississippi, generally speaking, are always very friendly and gracious.” 
And that’s why Porter immediately felt right at home when he began serving as the pastor of First United Methodist Church in July. 
“It has been a lot of fun getting to know everyone here,” he said. “Everyone in Yazoo City has been so friendly and welcoming. That’s what makes a place special. Regardless of where you are, the people are what make a place, and there are a lot of good people here.”
Porter’s love for Mississippi began when his father, Rev. Jim Porter, served in the Jackson/Madison area, which was also the longest the family stayed in one place during his young life. Porter was a 16-year-old student at Madison-Ridgeland High School when he first felt called to the ministry. 
“It’s kind of hard to put into words; I just sensed it,” Porter said. I knew that God was calling me to be a pastor in some capacity. The way it worked for me was that I didn’t know the specific nature of it at the time, but I knew that God was calling. By the time I was 16, I knew God was calling me, and I started responding to that.”
After graduating from Madison-Ridgeland, Porter studied at Asbury College (known as Asbury University today) in Kentucky. 
Porter’s first preaching assignment in Mississippi was as pastor of churches in Redwood and Eagle Lake near Vicksburg in 2001. From there he went to serve in Utica in Hinds County and Carpenter in Copiah County. He served at Briarwood United Methodist Church in Jackson before serving the last four years in Leland.
FUMC Yazoo City is the largest church Porter has led so far. He said the biggest difference he noticed right away was the luxury of having more staff members to work with.
“With smaller churches you’re coordinating more with volunteers,” he said. “We of course also have many volunteers here, but we also have a paid staff to work with.”
As he settles into his new role in Yazoo City, Porter has been encouraging church members to give him feedback. He plans to use what he learns from the congregation to help plan the style of worship services and set long range goals.
“I’m still working on getting to know us well enough to understand what our goals need to be as a church,” Porter said. “Certainly the goal for every church is the balance between evangelism and discipleship. We want to reach out to people outside of the church in an effort to draw them into a living faith in Jesus Christ so they can come to know God and be Christians as well. The other side is that we need to grow as disciples and strengthen our own Christian faith.”