Watching a life of sacrifice.
This month has been emotionally charged for me and my church family. We have been blessed in many many ways, not the least of these being our pastor. But his story is sort of unique in ministry today and I’d like to share a little bit of that with you.
Our pastor has served the Lord faithfully from childhood. He received a call very early in his life to preach. And preach he did! In fact, he began to preach and pastor churches when he was only 16! Sounds kind of crazy to us, doesn’t it? He preached in small churches without pastors and drove hundreds of miles each Sunday as a teenager to give the message of the gospel through the teaching of the scriptures. He eventually went to bible college, but didn’t go to seminary. He has been shepherding the people of God for over 55 years.
He started our church 34 years ago because of his conviction for no compromise. And for 34 years he has been the only senior pastor our church has known. We’ve grown and multiplied in numbers and have added on to our pastoral staff, but he has still held the responsibilities of senior pastor. This included Sunday morning radio broadcasts, preaching twice Sunday mornings, teaching Sunday School, preaching Sunday evenings and leading Wednesday night bible studies.
He knows the name of just about everyone who has come through our doors, he’s stood in vigil with most who have been in the hospital, visited those on their deathbeds, performed hundreds of funerals, even for people who attended our church decades ago and wanted “that hillbilly preacher” to do their service.
And yet, in all of this service, he (and his wonderful godly wife) have such great humility, their lives giving all glory back to God.
He will tell you he really has never considered what he’s done these past 5 1/2 decades a job. It was his calling and he couldn’t imagine a life NOT in the pulpit. And God has blessed. Our church is strong and solid in doctrine, we are deeply involved in service within the community, we love God and we love others.
Slams on the church.
In our age, and with new generations questioning the ways things have been done, there often come slams against the church. Some criticisms we need to take seriously because there is a lot of truth in them, some are just plain old spite. But I think about my pastor and his life of service for the Kingdom of God, his love and worship of God, his love and sacrifice for the saints and his deep love and concern for the lost, and I see church done right in his life.
Is he a perfect man? No, of course not. But he has been an honorable man of God and the love of Jesus has been lived out in and through his life and ministry these past 55 years.
And he’s grown! I’ve seen changes in his life over the years. Things that seemed important to him 20 years ago he might see as irrelevant today. He’ll admit that in his early years he put a lot of stock in appearances, but not anymore. Now I see in his life this verse:
“…God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.” Sam 16:7b
The church is called to build itself up to maturity in Christ AND to reach the world with the gospel. I’ve seen the heart of both aspects of this calling in this man of God, and I see church done right in his life.
Passing the baton to the next generation.
Today we had a celebration. A celebration of our pastor’s life. He has retired from full time ministry. On January 1st we began a new chapter in our church’s life. For the past 21 years we had another man serving the Lord in faithfulness and diligence. He labored in the gospel with the youth for 20 years and for the past year as executive pastor. For 21 years he has been trained and discipled to great maturity in the Lord by our senior pastor and others. Last week our church voted (with a whopping 99% approval) him as our new senior pastor. Our retired pastor today officially passed on the mantle of pastor over. And he did it with full approval and, I believe, great rejoicing for where God will be taking our church next.
And now, our retired pastor is staying in our home church. He is officially the Pastor Emeritus. He will continue to serve and minister, both in our church and wherever the Lord calls him to go. He gets to show our senior population that ministry and service doesn’t end with age. That spiritual strength of the church isn’t in youth and vigor – it is in depth of spirit and a lifetime of service and sacrifice and obedience to God. And once again, I see church done right in his life.
As we look at the things that the global (and most probably the US) church has done wrong and needs to change, let us not forget those faithful men and women of God who have given their lives in sacrificial service for the Kingdom of God. Those who have labored humbly in loving others and ministry of the Word, to equip the saints to greater service of the gospel of Jesus. Let us look with rejoicing and praise for those quite souls who have done church right in their lives.
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