1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:
2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,[fn] not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[fn] not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5
Today we celebrated my dad’s 20 years of ministry at Morris Hill Baptist Church. It has been a joyous, painful, fun, trying, loving and full 20 years. Before coming to Morris Hill, dad served at Meadowview Baptist for 11 years. Pastoral service is best seen in the long term; one life invested in the life of one congregation. To see how a man handles the good, the bad, the births, the deaths, the marriages, the divorces, the celebrations and the tragedies of people he has invested in for years is when you see the true character of a man.
When the average pastor moves congregations an average of every two to three years, the church doesn’t get to know him and he doesn’t really get to know them. In one career, my dad had served only two churches, and invested himself in them both with the intention of the investment being for life.
While a pastor may move congregations that often, and the people may never get to know the real man, the pastor’s family moves with him and they know him. The tragic story I hear over and over is that the man behind the pulpit is not the man behind closed doors at home.
And as soon as his kids are able, they are gone, at best to another church, at worst to find a way of life on their own, apart from the faith.
In my dad’s case, he has been an exception to both of these rules. He’s stayed. Ten times longer than the average pastor. And more than that, we’ve stayed. All four of us. All grown. All able to go somewhere else to worship.
But we haven’t. We stayed. We serve. We lived with my parents and saw them day in and day out. We grew up with them, saw them at their best and their worst. And we stay. The three oldest of us have all spent years living out of town or out of state, and in recent years, the Lord has brought us back to Chattanooga. We could have gone to other congregations. Spread our wings, gone our own way.
During one particularly difficult season of ministry, I so desperately wanted to leave, to run from the hurt and conflict. And Dad even gave me his blessing to leave, saying he would handle it if people questioned my reason for leaving.
That freedom to leave led me to stay, even when my flesh said, “Run!”
Pastor’s kids who walk away from the faith usually say they do so because of the inconsistencies seen between the man in the pulpit and the man at home.
In our case, the consistency of the man we’ve seen in the pulpit and at home kept us here, serving alongside him. When he has given his blessing for us to leave, when he has released us to know there is no expectation of our staying, we are even more encouraged to willingly stay.
Tonight, fellow ministers and friends shared stories of the faithfulness of my dad in his years of ministry. The greatest compliment I can give to him is to say thank you. Thank you for living a life that would make us want to stay. Thank you for being a true undershepherd who will one day hear the words, “Well done.”