A number of years ago we dug a flower bed across the front of our property. No small feat when you consider the width of our yard where the bed rests could be nearly 80 feet. I am guessing the area covered by this bed to be in the neighborhood of 300 square feet. We planted ground cover of an evergreen variety. A few months ago we added some colorful pansies. We wanted these plants. Today our beds also include countless weeds. We weeded some of our other beds to make room for vegetable plants. I need to finish weeding the bed everyone sees. I have not had time.
I approached a young man to see if he might have time to come by and finish what I started. He is looking forward to a better job – it does not require dirty hands and a sore back. He did not take me up on the offer. This incident came to mind when I considered just how to speak to a small church ordaining its new pastor.
I have known Charlie for quite some time. In fact, I knew Charlie and his brother in an entirely different setting. More than 30 years ago I attended our state Baptist boys camp in southeast Oklahoma. Charlie and his brother worked at the camp. Fred served as the "Nature Guy." I thought he was the coolest. Years later Charlie and I met again. He works in the IT department for our state Baptist convention. He has helped me with countless computer questions. We have also spent hours talking about life, faith and church. A few months ago Charlie called and asked if I would participate in his ordination service. I was honored.
This past Saturday I drove to a small building where the Faith Baptist Church meets for worship, bible study and fellowship. Just miles south of Faith Baptist Church other mega-churches sport multi-million dollar campuses. There are no multi-million dollar buildings where Faith sits.
We gathered to affirm what both Charlie and the people of Faith believe to be the work of God. My thoughts carried me to the offer to Brandon to come do some work for me. I really asked him to be a surrogate for me. No, I did not ask him to carry my child. I asked him to do something in my place. I wanted the benefit of the beauty of the flower bed without the work.
The great danger in any congregation comes when either pastor or congregation assumes or expects a surrogate. Growth and maturity cannot come without work and sometimes pain, ask any gardener. It is far better to travel this road together. Charlie wants to be a companion on the journey rather than take the journey for others. The people of Faith Baptist Church want to journey with Charlie not ask him to journey for them. They may never grow to mega proportions but that is really not the goal. There is greater likelihood they will continue to grow into a community of people sharing life and faith serving one another in the love of Jesus.
Quite a refreshing Saturday afternoon for me.