Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pastoral Appreciation Sunday

I grew up in the church, nurtured by a church family. I have lived close to the church all my life. I can yet feel something of what I felt when I sat on the platform of Hampton Place Church of God in Dallas, Texas in March 1952 for my ordination. I sat with Frank Couvisier, Sweetwater, and Thaddeus Swonger, Tyler as Robert Lee (Uncle Bob)Strickland, James H. Shell, and Leslie Gaylord, laid hands on us and prayed over us in the presence of the Texas Ministerial Assembly of the Church of God (Anderson).

I completed 45 years of pastoral ministry, and wonder yet how I did it. As a retired pastor, I have now had 14 years to observe other pastors and experience the “pastoral relationship” from the perspective of the pew. Among my many clergy friends, I recognize three significant pastors at this point of my life: James L. Sparks, Steven V. Williams, and Bill C. Konstantopoulos.

Jim Sparks is both my primary pastor as well as friend. We were peers at first, then friends, and his preaching attracted me, and the way he thinks about life. We do not bother Jim (and Susan, also ordained and on staff), although I stay in email contact. They are busy and most of the time we do not bother them, or hobnob with them; they are too busy for that. In the process, their ministry has been one of the more successful ministries in the Church of God during the past twenty years.

I also know they will be available IF WE NEED THEM. When Tommie was all but deceased in 2005, I did need them; they were there! The church has grown under their ministry and I have grown via their friendship. We love, respect, and appreciate them and would go to the wall with them on this Pastor’s Appreciation Day! I salute you Jim and Susan!!! You model a high standard of ministry today for all of us to measure up to!

The second pastor friend, Steve Williams, has been our friend, and pastoral associate for more than ten years now. Steve (and Martha, a teaching nurse) are bi-vocational pastors, gutting themselves at times to serve a small-town church and fill a publishing niche for the church.

Younger than our children, we have loved them like our children. In helping them enlarge their ministries, I have been in their home like a parent, and in their congregational life as a pew-warmer and as a church leader. I know them for the warm-hearted, talented, giving, people they are. They didn’t ask for easy service, they asked for a place to serve, give, and lead, and they have now done that for a decade in their small KY Mountain town. And, they have done it with dignity and class and compassion. Steve and Martha, you enrich the church with your talents and you make our world a better place to live. We need more young leaders like you.

The third pastor friend has been a special friend to me since his arrival in Winchester, KY more than a dozen years ago. I was a pastor in Ft Worth, TX when Bill Konstantopoulos arrived in Houston at Gulf-Coast Bible College from Athens, Greece in the 60s. I knew who he was; I did not know Bill until he arrived in Winchester in the 90s.

That Sunday I visited Winchester 1st to “hear the new preacher.” I heard him preach in his Greek-English accent, then met him at the door. I had two impressions: I liked his solid Bible preaching and his “noteless” style, and at the door I received a warm hug. I was never much of a “hugger” but Bill was a “lover” and I loved him in return. After that I was a frequent visitor, but never a local member.

I will never forget Bill for 1) visiting my daughter in the hospital when she needed a pastor, and 2) for faithfully visiting my wife at Lexington’s St Joe East heart unit when she had a heart attack and I was not there. Of course, Bill would not be “Bro. Bill” without Kay, his devoted wife.

Bill and Kay are retired now, Jim and Susan are approaching retirement, but Steve and Martha have (I pray) many years yet to serve. These couples, and their Staff Associates, remind me that there are people today who are true blue (maise & blue MI and KY blue in KY) people with character of sterling silver. They are people who are trustworthy and exemplary, people of integrity yet all very different.

These are people who remind us there are still values in life that are worthwhile. These are people who live a higher standard than the run of the mill and they call us to extend ourselves beyond the mediocrity that would confine so many of us. They call us to be better people, to live more unselfishly.

If we will follow their exemplary leadership, at the end of the day, we too will hear that good word of acceptance … that welcome of “well done. . .” when we enter into the eternal portals. We desperately need people today that we can trust. I don’t always agree with the politics of these Pastoral"undershepherds" ”, but what I do know is, I can trust “them” - “WHO THEY ARE” speaks so loud I don’t hear much else …

To Jim & Susan, Steve & Martha, Bill & Kay, and staff associates, thank you for being WHO YOU ARE and DOING WHAT YOU DO SO WELL! God loves you but so do we ...

From Warner’s World,
we are

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