This is the third and last post of my observations after 2000 sermons and 25 years of pastoral ministry. In the first two I talked about preaching and about churches. This one will be about people. Of course every pastor could share the good, bad, and ugly about people (and people could share the same about every pastor). I want to present this as the kind of people I have known and am thankful for.
I have known and am very thankful for little old ladies who pray. It seems there is always at least one. They are sweet, gray-haired, teetering, reedy-voiced, mighty prayer warriors. I remember when one of them in the church I pastored passed away. At her funeral, I held up her name-filled prayer notebook and asked who was going to take her place. I would not be who I am, and the church would not be what it is, without these dear saints.
I do not have sufficient words to give thanks for the people who suffer deeply and for long periods of time, who during their great trial give testimony to the grace and goodness of God. Whether through a terrible disease, a tragic death, a devastating family issue, or other major trial, these people not only avail themselves of God’s grace, they seem to overflow with it and become an encouragement to all around them.
I am very grateful for the men who have been steadfast and strong and have been a source of strength for me when I am weak, wavering, doubtful, or discouraged. There have been 2-3 especially who, while in a position of leadership, have kept a steady hand on the helm as the church navigated rough waters. These men have become a stabilizing influence in my life and ministry. More than once I have been close to “hanging it up” and one of these men has provided timely encouragement and counsel. I praise God for them.
What church and pastor could function without the person who will do just about anything, anytime, that is needed? Some people are just servants. They love to hear that there is a need, and they almost (sometimes literally) run to take care of it. There is no task too great or small. There is no time too early or late. There is no appreciation or compensation expected. They are sometimes willing to a fault, sacrificing personal time and resources for the sake of ministry. Whatever is needed, they make it happen.
Yes, I am thankful for the people who ask the hard questions. There are people who, when a plan or decision is being discussed, will question the reasoning, or draw attention to faults in the plan, or disagree with the direction. There is almost always benefit from paying attention to what these people are saying. Most people who do this really care about the church and really support and love the pastor. Occasionally someone is just being disagreeable. Most often, the constructive critic highlights an issue that should be considered, thought through, explained better, or improved. That’s good for the church.
I am thankful for the men who have given years of their lives to leading the churches I have pastored through a major building program. There is no way I could have done it as the pastor. It is beyond my ability and outside of my skill set. There have been key men who have provided the leadership in overseeing the construction as well as coordinating the process with the congregation in both churches I have pastored. They literally poured and invested a major portion of their lives into this ministry endeavor. The church benefited greatly from them. I am grateful for them.
I praise God for the people who have had major struggles with sin and have overcome them. One example is a man addicted to drugs who was destroying himself and his family. He trusted in Jesus Christ to save Him. He met with me weekly, early in the morning at McDonalds, for discipleship and counseling. He grew and God delivered him. I also think of family situations where grievous sin threatened to destroy the marriage. I felt and witnessed the joy of repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. God is good. There is hope. It can happen. I am thankful for the people who access the grace of God for themselves and extend it to others.
There are many more kinds of people for whom I am thankful. I’ll name one more. I am more grateful than I can ever say for my wife. The pastor’s wife is in a unique position. She can literally make or break her husband’s ministry. My wife’s name is Faith, and she lives it. Her faith has sustained me countless times. Her prayer for me, encouragement, wise counsel, joyful spirit, amazing forgiveness, and unwavering support of God’s calling on my life have, on a human level, made me who I am. No words can express the gratitude I have for her. Thank you, Father, for Faith.