The front door closed with a resounding thunk. I was still in my room squeezing my Critter Sitters Trapper Keeper into my bookbag. With measured movements, I zipped the bag up, grabbed my lunch, and made my way over to the door that had shut a little more than five minutes before. Thrusting it open I glanced at the empty driveway. My stomach sank. My mom had finally done what she had threatened many a school morn. She had left me home.
She was the principal and often had to arrive early to unlock the school door. And while I wasn’t necessarily a dawdling middle schooler, I was the reason she didn’t always make it before the first student. I had been duly warned that morning of the departure time, in addition to a final shouted warning as she walked out the door.
I sat on the front steps, contemplating my situation and options. I heard the thrumming chug of a lawnmower across the street. From around the corner of the house came our pastor pushing the mower on that warm spring morning. Grateful he lived across the street, I waved and jogged over.
“My mom left me home because I wasn’t ready on time. Would you be able to take me to the school when you’re done?” I nervously blurted as he depressed the throttle and the mower fell silent.
Wiping his brow with a sweaty rag he pulled from his back pocket, the rail-thin pastor shrugged. “Well, I can take you now,” he said. “The grass can wait. I’ll roll the mower in the back and meet you upfront in a couple of minutes.”
Giving my thanks, I scrambled back to our house, carefully locked up, and waited at the passenger door of the pastor’s well-aged sedan. In two minutes flat, he appeared with a fresh shirt, combed white locks, and keys in hand. We soon arrived at the three-teacher school and after uttering several profuse “thank yous” I went inside as he maneuvered away.
This is just one of my memories of pastors making a difference. From coordinating work bees and gym nights to writing powerful articles; from pre-marital counseling to dedicating my children; from asking for and listening to my ideas for sermon graphics to running community service programs; from celebrating milestones to sharing in grieving, pastors have had a profound impact on my life.
While I don’t remember many of their sermons, I remember their kindness. Their passion. Their dedication. Their Christlike spirit.
Hold Up Their Hands
Ellen G. White writes about the relationship between pastors and their parishioners: “Let the time thus gained be spent in wrestling with God for your ministers. Hold up their hands as did Aaron and Hur the hands of Moses.”*
She warns that the relationship is reciprocal: “The negligence on the part of the ministers has discouraged the people, and the lack of interest, self-sacrifice, and appreciation of the work on the part of the people has discouraged the ministers.”
White reminds us that we are to work together. “Let it be seen that Christ, not the minister, is the head of the church. The members of the body of Christ have a part to act, and they will not be accounted faithful unless they do act their part. Let a divine work be wrought in every soul, until Christ shall behold His image reflected in His followers.”
I know my experience isn’t everyone’s experience. There are tragic stories of clergy abuse and none of this deplorable behavior should ever be allowed or tolerated in the slightest. There are narcissistic, predatory pastors and the damage they do is catastrophic.
I’ve been truly blessed that the pastors in my life have been committed, caring reflections of God’s love. They have not been perfect, but I’ve seen God in and through them. And in this appreciation month in particular I am grateful.
Has a pastor you know made (or is making) a meaningful difference in your life? Let them know (see 1 Thess. 5:12-13). Tell them. Show them.
Their jobs aren’t easy. They need to know.
* Ellen G. White quotes taken from Pastoral Ministry, pp, 100, 101. Silver Spring, MD: General Conference Ministerial Association, 1995.