Pastor’s Friday Comments (02.19.21)

As you probably know, the Pastor Search Committee has asked three McAfee School of Theology students to examine aspects of our church life and make some tentative observations about what they think our future might hold. The committee thought it would be good to get some “fresh eyes” to look at us from the outside.

On Monday I had a conversation with those students and one of them asked me an interesting question: “Who is it that supports the pastor?” I think she was expecting an answer related to the formal structure of the church. What group or committee works most closely with the pastor to ensure that the work gets done and that he (in my case, he) has the resources he (or she) needs? The quick answer would be the personnel committee, the deacons, and the staff. Each of those groups has its role to play.

But the answer I gladly gave was much broader than that. When she asked, who supports the pastor, I truthfully answered, “Everybody!” It is the single thing that I hope any potential candidate for this position to which the committee is led hears most clearly: Every member of the family of faith at Parkway, in her or his own way, supports the work of ministry that I have the privilege of helping to lead. 

In the first place, you show up. You can’t overestimate the importance of simply being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. We may be a small congregation, but pre-Covid the percentage of our members who participated in everything from worship to the Midweek Prayer Service to mission endeavors has been phenomenal. And now, when it requires extra effort to stay connected, I have been even more impressed with the time and energy you are giving to be part of what we are still doing together. (Not to mention the perseverance you show when you take part in our in-person parking lot worship service.)

Also, you engage. You are not mere spectators. You participate in worship, in Bible study, in fellowship. And part of that engagement is reflection. Rather than making some innocuous comment after worship, quite often one or more of you will reference something that was said or took place that was meaningful to you. It shows you were not only paying attention, but were considering what it meant to you. You can’t imagine how meaningful that is to those of us who plan and lead worship.

And you encourage. A way of expressing that in the negative is, you don’t complain. Seriously, almost never. But more importantly, you take the time to express appreciation and to encourage when you know that together or individually we are facing challenges. In the New Testament, Barnabas was nicknamed “Son of Encouragement.” We have a church full of Barnabases.

I could continue about your talents and your personalities and your spiritual gifts, but I don’t want to put you in danger of experiencing the sin of pride. I just want to let you know that I appreciate you and someday, perhaps soon, someone else will experience that great gift.

When the student asked me who supports the pastor, I got emotional. I’m told that may have something to do with physiological changes as one advances in age, but in this case it was because I am overwhelmed with gratitude for each of you. Thank you for the part you play in making this great family of faith.