I have written recently about commitment (“If I Falter, Push Me On”) but I want to revisit that subject again in this post from a slightly different perspective. I want to write from the vantage point of a pastor who in 50 years of pastoring has seen about every kind of commitment there is to see and I want to share with you what the real thing looks like, up close and personal, as opposed to theories about or stories taken from inspiring devotionals. What I share here will be out of my own first-hand observation. Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin once wrote that communists were “dead men on furlough” indicating that they had died to their own self- interests for what was in their warped thinking “a greater cause.” These people of whom I speak, some living here, some now living in heaven, were very much alive while dead to self. I have seen commitment for Christ and His Church in:
- A young man who, when I came to Thompson Road Baptist Church in the fall of 1979 was heading to Pillsbury Baptist Bible College where he would graduate four years later then return to his home church to become our volunteer organist. My predecessor’s wife, Judy Moritz, had encouraged Dan to take up the organ as he was highly proficient in music. As of today, Dan has played on our Allen organ every Sunday for more than 40 years, seldom missing a Lord’s Day. One could describe him as highly skilled, but his pastor of 40 years would use just one word: committed!
- Two godly women, neither of which attended Bible School or had any specialized teachers’ training, but who for more than 40 years, showed up Sunday after Sunday to team teach a 1st grade Sunday School class. Theirs was a labor of love and of loyalty, impacting for His kingdom’s sake hundreds of precious boys and girls. They wanted nothing in return, were seldom thanked, always cheerful and faithful and it was my privilege to greet every Sunday of the year Shirley and Barb, 20th and 21st century real-time examples of teachers who lived commitment; and to that list of faithful, dedicated teachers who showed up Sunday after Sunday with no prodding or pushing just passion for ministry, I could add scores of names.
- Roy, an ex-leather neck who was for 25 years what we would call the Head Usher. He took his job so seriously. If he were not at church, rain or shine, snow or sleet, one hour ahead of when starting time was announced, he considered himself late. He gave extraordinary attention to the slightest of details. He always placed a glass of water on the pulpit for the preacher just in case it would be needed. One Sunday, someone played a practical joke on our Lead Usher and dropped a gold fish into the glass of water that Roy had earlier placed there. He was so embarrassed that he was ready to “throw the towel in,” feeling that he had let me down and had let His Lord down. After an hour or so of “personal” work I was able to convince Roy that it was not his fault and that it had not bothered anyone. He stayed on and on and on until some months ago he was sidelined with a life-threatening illness requiring him to “sit on the bench” for the first time that any of us could remember. He was a credit to the U.S. Marine Corps but so much more to His Lord and Savior whom he served proudly yet humbly with unquestioned commitment.
- Bus Workers, drivers, helpers and “captains” too numerous to mention by name who every Lord’s Day would show up at church two hours ahead of when Sunday School would begin to fire up some busses so that they could bring boys and girls and some adults to Sunday School and Church who would otherwise not be able to attend. Hundreds maybe thousands of souls were added to His kingdom through this often challenging and always labor-intensive work for Christ. It was most often “convicting” to watch them in action, working in VBS during the heat of days with no AC and with 50 or 60 very anxious and active boys and girls excited about getting to VBS; then having dropped them off, returning to take them back home when they were even more wound up than earlier. These workers epitomized commitment.
- A lady who specialized in collecting beautiful flowers and vases from yard sales or other places so that when there was a church dinner, special occasion or seasonal change she could, with a few helping hands, make the church an attractive place to meet with beautiful arrangements. Her ministry demonstrated in ways often unsung but never unseen, commitment. While she did this, her husband, who had a truck with a snow plow, every time there was snow would be in the church parking lot long before most of us were awake, making sure the snow was plowed so that we could get into the parking lot and out again, safely. Commitment described this otherwise quiet Christian couple.
- Choir members, instrumentalists, music leaders who week after week, hour after hour, fine- tuned their skills while tuning up their hearts spiritually so that Sunday after Sunday, they were faithfully making joyful and inspiring sounds that His Spirit used in His mission of sanctifying saints.
- A Dad and his son(s) and later his daughters who, during eight months a year, would drive to church every Friday with heavy mowing and yard maintenance equipment in tow so that on Sunday the church yard would be “mowed and blowed,” and looking neatly manicured. It was a job for which most people would never know whom to thank, a job the church was never “billed” for, but, week after week, work that was done by a family team because of their commitment.
- Jerry Farley, now 92, grounded because of “macular,” but for 35 years served His Lord through serving His Church. Employed by Allison’s for decades, Jerry never confronted a mechanical problem that stymied him. It was his job and job skill and he put it to work for His church, saving multiplied thousands of dollars in repair costs whether in building needs, broken down busses, electrical and mechanical headaches, Jerry was (and in many cases still is) the go to man. Saved at the downtown church of Ford Porter (“God’s Simple Plan of Salvation author), Jerry and his wife Fran never got over what God did for them and they spent most of their lives thanking Him by serving with extraordinary commitment.
- Faithful deacons who through thick and thin, gave careful counsel, demonstrated compassion and concern for God’s servants and service, and led by example with godly exhortation. Any pastor who stays in a church any length of time does so because of a cadre of men and women who are loving, loyal and lasting in their support and sustenance of God’s man and ministry. I cannot begin to name all such, but I will just mention one: Henry Davee. He goes way back, but if you knew him and his sweet wife, Mable, enough said!
Well, I have not yet begun to scratch the surface. I am sure everyone of the above-mentioned soldiers will censor me for calling any attention to what they did, and I am not in any way trying to repay them; only Jesus can and will do that at the Bema seat. Every pastor of any size church knows exactly what I am talking about. There is never a “one-man” ministry that pleases God; it is always a team effort and never without men and women whose lives, if one would be pressed to characterize them in one word, would be summarized thusly: “Commitment.”
Stay tuned for a future installment of “What Commitment Looks Like Up Close” as I’d like to share some more sketches of men and women that have helped, under God’s watch care, to shape my life.
P.S. To my faithful “You and God” readers, a prayer request: Recently, I have been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. It is a cancer of the blood that impacts negatively the bones. There is no known cause or cure, but with aggressive treatment, which I am now in, does sometimes go into remission. Please pray with Ellen and myself that we shall be at rest and peace in God’s will, however it should be. We are trusting in His never-failing goodness and in His all-sufficient grace. I will try to keep the “You and God” posts coming, but if I miss an occasional installment, it will be because of this new twist in our journey. Thanks for your prayers. I will keep you up to date from time to time.
“Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” (Ps. 32:7)