June 14, 2012
This summer I’ve been spending time with the late Dr. Cecil Sherman. Dr. Sherman was my favorite professor and became a personal ministerial hero. I was fortunate to take his class on both “Baptist History” and “The Life and Work of the Pastor” when I was a student at BTSR in the 1990s. This summer I am co-teaching a class on ”Church Administration” for the diploma program at Leland. My fellow teacher, Adam Tyler, and I are using Dr. Sherman’s book “To Be a Good and Faithful Servant” along with our class notes as we address pastoral leadership.
What a journey. I too his pastoral class in 1997 and since that day have kept his notes at my desk for use in my own ministry. I joke and say I have often said “WWCD” (What would Cecil Do?) when pondering ministerial life. I remember still the frank nature of his classroom discussions and how he simply told it like he saw it.
Recently someone told me Cecil Sherman was more right than he was wrong. I can only hope that is one day said of me! Shortly before his death several of us who were former students gathered in his apartment and just spent the time listening to him share his insights on ministry.
When I first read both the leadership book and the autobiography I found myself traveling back. I was swept back to those days as an eager seminary student who had been hurt by experiences at Southern Seminary and somehow was trying to figure out how to be Baptist in the shifting sands.
I remember Dr. Sherman as a Baptist who bore the scars of the final days of the Southern Baptist Convention back when the world we once knew changed. I remember him as a professor who really did want to teach, challenge, and help students. But I remember him as a pastor. I never belonged to a church he served but as he shared his heart with us the pastor in Dr. Sherman came through time and time again. His love for the church and his desire for a church to be healthy and vibrant kept him going. I miss Dr. Sherman. I really do. I miss pastors like him. As I read these notes and work with students who are beginning their journey in ministry I am reminded why I became a pastor.
June 1, 2012
This Sunday our church is having our annual “Loyalty Day.” I’m not sure why this was the name given to this special day but it is our annual home coming. Through the years in various churches I have participated in these days. I’ve spoken at a few and I’ve attended several. It is a time to gather, reflect, visit with former members, and eat lots of food.
At our church we have often brought back a former pastor and this year we bring back the pastor who served before me. I’m looking forward to meeting him. He was here for 17 years! Grant Carter did a great job at RMBC and his hard work has made it much easier for me. After Grant we had a great interim (Mark Beck) who served for over two years until I came. Mark also did a fantastic job.
Each day I walk past the hall of photos of former pastors. There aren’t that many since our church is only 55 or so years old. Most of the early pastors have past away and so our choices for home coming have become smaller. I am thankful for those who did come before and they helped shape who we are today. Through the years we’ve had several youth grow up and go off into ministry and on a few occasions we have chosen to invite them (all grown up now) to come back and share. This too is a testimony to who our church is and the impact this congregation has had.
Church home comings are great times. They are a time to look back. In our case we do have charter members still with us. And it is a time to say thanks. The hard work and dedication that those folks have given is beyond measure. They saw a need and came together to plant a church and to make an impact on this community. It is a time to look around. Where are we today? Who are we today? What are the needs we face? And then to look forward! Home comings are not just times to ask “Remember when?” but to also say “What next?” And that is exciting.
I personally have been in this church for 5 years. I’m just now getting to know the area, the people, and the real needs around us. I’m excited as we launch forward into what comes next. We have a great past and we are in an exciting time of new growth and energy. But the future is a challenge. The world around us is changing and the needs are great. This wonderful legacy will enable us to be more than willing to face whatever comes next.
Your church may be 50 years old or 100 years old or even older and yet the same reality exists. You have a past and it may be a bright one or a time of great struggle. You are in a present. This present may be exciting and growing or it may be a time that is difficult and dark. Yet your church and my church faces a future. What we do now and what we learn from the past can make that future a grand one or a nightmare! The choice is ours. Even if the past was bad or the present is shaky the lessons we could learn from those realities do not destine any church for destruction. By knowing what has come and what is then the future can be what we make it (with God’s help).
So tomorrow I attend a few graduate cook outs. Then I will get up on Sunday and gather with our church. Familiar faces and new ones will gather to laugh, sing, share, fellowship, and begin the next chapter!