He quietly said to me, “Pastor, I saw something that would make a good message for our Church sign: ‘Jesus knows me, this I love.’” And with that, a broad smile and pleasant chuckle, I gave John a thumbs up and we both agreed it was a winner. He went his way and I mine as I recalled the chorus we sang as children and then taught to our children and theirs, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Yes, that would make a good sign message for the thousands who drive by our church, located on a busy thorough fare, each week.
But then, as John went on this way, on and off that day and the next couple of days, I thought about John himself, a father of five and married to Joyce, a family that joined the church I had taken the pastoral reins of back in 1979 just about the same time that my family and I had moved to Indianapolis in September of that year. In fact, if my memory does not fail me, Joyce was in the hospital giving birth to their fifth child while I was preaching my inaugural message in the pulpit of TRBC. They were there 40 years later, just the two of them as their children all had married and moved away, on my last Sunday as senior pastor of this great church, bidding me farewell, and more than a year later they are still here where I am now serving as Pastor Emeritus, working out of an office that is very commodious yet off the beaten path. It was there that John caught up with me the other day to share the sign message with me. He did not put that message up then, but probably will do so, just like he has done with hundreds of messages in the 20 years that he has faithfully been doing the same.
Along with that, John has taught an adult Sunday school class and, before suffering severe hearing loss, he sang, accompanying himself on his guitar. His wife has served in many different areas of our church ministry over the years, and they are precisely the couple any pastor would cherish to have as co-laborers in ministry. They have always been prayerfully supportive of the church and of my ministry; and, as many pastors who read this will identify with, they are “family.” I could only wish that every pastor would be so blessed as to have a John and Joyce as members and I am convinced that if you are a pastor and have been shepherd of the same church for more than five years, you have been so blessed with at least one or more such couples. Humbly, and to God be the glory, God has led and joined with us scores of such couples over the course of the forty years I pastored this church, people who served so faithfully, so humbly and sacrificially, unseen often and unsung, but “salt of the earth” people without which no church could function well. I am singling out John and Joyce and I would like to tell the story of each of those other servants of Christ and hope to do so in time as I have opportunity. Every Christmas Joyce baked some homemade cookies that were her signature gifts to the pastors and other people of the church. They were always delicious and a mental picture of that plate of cookies baked in the warmth of a kind Christian household with a heart and hands of love, will always trigger a precious memory of a couple who embodied the spirit of Christ who, Paul said, taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
And, speaking of John and Joyce, I am grateful to our Lord who taught us to serve and led by example. After the Last Supper with His disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus laid aside His garments, took a towel and knelt down to wash His disciples’ feet, overriding the protest of Peter, saying that what He was doing is what they needed to learn to do: “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15). Paul would later exhort Corinthian Christians that they should “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (I Cor. 4:1) That was a nice way of saying, we are servants of Christ, or plainly, “slaves.” D.L. Moody once said that “the measure of a man’s greatness is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.” Albert Sweitzer: “I don’t know your destiny, but I know one thing: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Moses, servant of God, spent 40 years in the palace of Pharaoh learning how to be a somebody; then 40 years in a desert learning how to be a nobody and, finally, in the third 40 years he learned what God could do with a somebody who had learned how to be a nobody. (Moody)
May we all aspire to be His servants, knowing that when we have done all that we have been commanded to do, we are “unprofitable servants.” (Luke 17:10)
“That man is great and he alone, who serves a greatness not his own for neither praise nor pelf, content to know and be unknown, whole in himself.” (anon)