IN HONOUR OF LONG HAUL PASTORS
October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Here’s an awesome opportunity to do something (insert guilt) we should have been doing all year long, me included: Stop and pause to express our thanks to our pastors.
This is an original, true story written by Bill Allison. It’s very powerful.
If you are a pastor, consider this my small token of appreciation to you for your commitment to ministry.
If you’re not a pastor, why don’t you forward this blog post to your pastor today with a personal note of thanks?
IN HONOUR OF LONG HAUL PASTORS
My Encounter with “Moses”
By Bill Allison
Something crazy and God-like happened to me on Sunday, September 12, 2004, during my ministry to the community of Chrisman, IL (population 1,200). The churches in that town rallied together for a combined church service in the city square in the morning–and later at an evening youth service. God showed up…and he was looking for me.
The scene: After the morning community service. I’ve finished speaking, and I am simply connecting with the people of Chrisman in the city square:
“Ninety-eight years old tomorrow?” I asked incredulously.
“That’s right, I’ll be ninety-eight years old tomorrow,” said the man in a voice that could barely be heard. He looked much stronger than his voice sounded.
“What did you do for work?” I asked.
“I was in the ministry for seventy-two years. That’s why you can barely hear me. Over the years, I preached so much that I preached my voice out.”
I don’t know exactly what happened in my heart at that moment other than to say that it was like an electrical shock ran through my body. God got my attention. Here was the man that I hope to be some day–a man who faithfully preached God’s Word until his voice finally gave out.
I asked curiously, “Were you married?”
He said, “I was married to the best minister’s wife in the world. We were married and did ministry together for seventy years.” He looked away from me for a moment and continued, “She has been in Heaven now for the last four years.” He looked to his right and left and said, “Two of my sons are with me today.”
It began to dawn on me that I was in the presence of a man I want to be like with all my heart. I was not about to lose this opportunity. So I went into sponge/learner mode as fast as I could–determined not to lose one bit of this opportunity to sit at the feet of this experienced godly man. “What advice would you give to a young preacher like me?” I asked sincerely.
Without a second of hesitation, he said, “Preach the Word! That is exactly what I tried to do my whole life. So I say preach the Word!” I’ve read this exhortation in Scripture many, many times. Even at my official commissioning and licensing for the ministry, the same words were said. And they were meaningful to me then. But somehow, coming from this gentle senior saint, it felt like it was coming from Moses himself!
Thinking back to a conversation I had with a very discouraged ministry friend last week, and knowing that the number one reason many leave vocational ministry is because of discouragement, I asked, “Were you ever deeply discouraged during your seventy-two years of ministry?”
“Yes, I was discouraged from time to time. But it was God’s Word that kept me going. I knew God wanted me to preach his Word since I was fourteen. I preached my first sermon when I was seventeen. Throughout my life, God’s Word has sustained me–even during the discouraging times.”
Again, I’ve heard this, knew this, and even said similar things. But somehow, because of his years of experience with walking with God, his authentic words drilled deep into my heart.
Other people from the community began to approach our small circle and engage me in conversation. I watched out of the corner of my eye as this man and his two sons slowly walked away. My heart began to race. I was filled with urgency. I MUST ASK THIS MAN TO PRAY FOR ME! The man and his sons were about twenty-five yards away from me when I suddenly ran to them. I did not mean to be rude to the people who had gathered around me, but I HAD to do this. When I caught up with them, I said from behind them, “Sir, will you please put your hands on me and pray for me?” I could not believe those words came out of my mouth. But I felt COMPELLED to have this man pray for me.
He turned around to look me right in the eyes. His eyes widened and he immediately placed his hands on my shoulders and, in that sweet, raspy, and worn out voice prayed the most beautiful quiet prayer of blessing I have ever heard. He prayed that I would flourish in my relationship with God, my wife, and my kids. He prayed I would be faithful to preach the Word. He prayed God would bless me and my ministry beyond all I could ever ask or think–for God’s glory. As he prayed I quietly began to weep. I was thinking two things: 1) This must be what it was like to receive the blessing of a patriarch in the Old Testament, and 2) Am I nuts? Am I starting to unravel emotionally here? The answer to this last question–yes. But as crazy as this whole deal was–I KNEW God was in it–and I am glad I listened to the Spirit’s voice and promptings.
When he pronounced the “amen,” his two sons and I looked up–and I could see one was weeping like I was–and the other was also glassy-eyed. I made eye contact with the man of God and as I went to say “thank you” I could not get the words out because a flood of new tears came. I finally regained my composure, shook the man’s hand in gratitude, and watched them walk away.
Frankly, God did something so deep in my heart in this brief encounter with this senior saint that I am still processing it. But it was deep and it was God–and I will never forget it. In some strange God-way, I feel like I received a blessing from Moses himself.
As is often the case, I went to minister, but ended up getting ministered to.
Copyright 2004 Bill Allison. Permission is granted to copy and send this to others, but not for commercial purposes.