I imagine that most people think of me as being a serious person and not too much fun and that’s true, but I was recently part of a management training course in which one of the presenters took a few moments to lighten the mood with a bit of humor, which was thoughtful, because his presentation was on a very dry legal subject.
As everyone knows, today is Brother Doug’s last day at the podium here at Iola Missionary and that makes it a special day, in its own sad way, that might need a bit of brightening up.
After a church service on Sunday Morning, a young boy suddenly announced to his mother, "Mom, I’ve decided to become a minister when I grow up."
"Oh," said his mother. "Why is that?"
"Well," said the little boy, "I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit and listen."
I saw that one and had to laugh because my mental image of a preacher is the minister from the old Disney movie Pollyanna, who was a fire and brimstone sort until he figured out what his congregation really needed. I’ve always felt that it’s important for a minister to adapt to his congregation and not expect the opposite. He meets their needs, as they are.
The other day an older lady who called a radio pastor. The pastor was a wise, grandfatherly gentleman who had that calm reassuring voice that can melt all fear.
The lady, who was obviously crying, said, "Pastor, I was born blind, and I’ve been blind all my life. I don’t mind so much being blind but I have some well meaning friends who tell me that if I had more faith I could be healed."
The pastor asked her, "Tell me, do you carry one of those white canes?"
"Yes I do," she replied.
"Then the next time someone says that, hit them over the head with the cane," he said. "Then tell them ‘If you had more faith that wouldn’t hurt’ "!
Of course, this sort of advise is right along the lines of some of Brother Doug’s East Texas wisdom that he’s brought to us over the last 8 years. Being a pastor to a church is not an easy thing, but it’s something that a few are called to do:
Ephesians 4 "…Christ gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…"
You know, most of us have only a partial appreciation for what a pastor’s job is and I’m not particularly able to comment on it myself, but I will say that it’s filled with challenges that are very different than the ones the rest of us face in our working lives.
Romans 10: For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
From visiting the hospitalized to praying for the ailing, for ministering to the wayward and trying to keep dozens of people with different ideas about how to "Do Church" relatively happy, to dealing with an aging church building and contention in the church body, the pastor has his hands full.
In fact, the pastor needs help from his congregation to do most of the things that need doing around the church. Despite advances in science, it is still not possible for a man to be in more than one place at a time. Church members must help and do their fair share of keeping up the body and the mission of their local church. Perhaps this story will illuminate that point:
The Spirit once impressed a great illustration on a pastor. He said, "Our church needs to get back to the basics. We need to become like a babe, and learn to get up on our hands and knees and CRAWL before the Lord."
As the pastor paused briefly, From the back of the sanctuary came a voice crying out, "Let ‘er CRAWL preacher, let ‘er CRAWL."
The pastor continued, "Then we need to work on studying the word and strengthening ourselves to where we can STAND and be strong in our faith. We need to STAND for the LORD."
From the back of the sanctuary the voice replied back, "Let ‘er STAND preacher, let ‘er STAND."
Encouraged even more, the pastor continued his illustration by saying, "This church needs to then take one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other until we can WALK for the Lord."
From the back of the sanctuary the voice replied back, "Let ‘er WALK preacher, let ‘er WALK."
By now the Pastor was fully inspired by the encouraging Brother in the back and he continued with enthusiasm, "The church needs to then get into a stride where we can RUN for God. But first, it’s going to take each and every member of this church, each and every one of you, to join in.
"You’re each going to have to make a commitment to tithe, you’re each going to have to make a commitment to study the Word daily, you’re each going to have to commit to pray daily, and you’re each going to have to commit to assembling here as part of this body each and every time the church doors are open.
"Then and only then, can this church RUN for the Lord."
After an exceptionally long and thoughtful pause the voice cried out from the back of the sanctuary, "Let ‘er CRAWL, Preacher, Let ‘er CRAWL."
I read that and I had to laugh. It’s funny because it’s true and I think we all know it. How easily we are ready and willing to settle for crawling instead of running.
Of course, our church has folks who do a lot of work that goes unrecognized and unappreciated, including the pastor himself, Vivian, Tommy and Jack. When Matt Carey and Robin Johnson were members here, they did many things for the church and sacrificed a lot of their time and energy for the fellowship at Iola Missionary. While none of the folks I’ve mentioned would expect to be made an example of today, moving a church at more than a crawl takes that kind of effort and its starts with showing up and living life together.
Hebrews 10:24-25 – "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
This is the job of the congregation. The pastor will encourage us in this effort, but ultimately we are our own bosses and have to make the decision to be part of the body ourselves.
Of course, a pastor also has his own personal ministry work to fulfill, which is to do the Lord’s work. Part of this work is increasing the faith and passion of his congregation, which is not an easy job.
A Pastor in Texas once lamented that it was very difficult to get his message across to his congregation. "It’s so beautiful here in the winter," he said, "that heaven doesn’t interest them. And it’s so hot here in the summer that hell doesn’t scare them."
Now if that doesn’t sound like Iola, Texas, I don’t know what does.
So as we come to the end of Brother Doug’s pastoring here at IMBC, let’s consider the wisdom of Solomon, a man who had seen it all when he wrote:
Ecclesiastes 3 – "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance"
So we could send Doug off in a spirit of weeping and mourning, but instead let’s consider all of the things that have been accomplished during his time here, how much better cared for the church facilities are now, how much healthier the church’s financial situation is than just a few years ago, how many highs in attendance we’ve seen and how many friends have gone on to lead other churches and ministries. And considering all of that, let’s send him off with laughter and maybe even a bit of dancing, if any of your Baptists have any rhythm. There is a time for everything, even for parting ways.
So in that spirit, I’ll close with a couple of more bits of humor that, while not culled from Brother Doug’s ministry, could very well be something that just might – and to be clear, I "might" – have taken place in his own life:
A preacher’s young daughter noticed that her preacher father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day she asked him why.
"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages, "I’m asking the Lord to help me to preach a good sermon."
"Well then, how come He doesn’t do it?" she asked.
A boy was watching his father, a pastor, write a sermon. "How do you know what to say?" he asked.
"Why, God tells me."
"Oh," said the boy. "Then why do you keep crossing things out?"
And finally, one that I trust we’ll all remember here in a couple of hours:
A little girl became restless as the preacher’s sermon dragged on and on. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, "Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?"
We’ll miss you, Doug.
Let us pray.