Friday, January 27, 2012

A Preacher or a Pastor?

The rain was coming down in buckets as I struggled to keep my car between the ditches on the washed out gravel road. I was doing what every country church preacher boy should do on a Sunday afternoon. I was "visiting," house after house, spending a little while drinking coffee and getting acquainted with the handful of folks that were part of my first flock.

Lindley Adams lived way out on the edge of civilization. It was not the end of the world, but you could see the end of their world from his place. Even the gravel stopped a mile or so before Lindley's place, but some how my old Dodge plowed through the mud and I wiped my feet on the old rug on the porch.

"How'd you get here?" Lindley asked as he opened the door. "I didn't figure anybody could make it in with all this rain."

"Well, here I am." And so began a good friendship with Lindley. We had great conversations from time to time and one day he even took me out back and let me shoot some of his antique revolvers and black powder muskets. I think my ears are still ringing.

But what I will always remember about Lindley is the question that he put to me on that first rain soaked afternoon. After just a few moments of introduction and small talk, he got right to the point. "Well, let me ask you," he said, "Are you a preacher or are you a pastor?" I wasn't sure how to answer, so I mumbled something about trying to be a little bit of both.

Lindley was not satisfied. "Don't you know the difference?"

I shrugged and said, "I guess I don't."

"Well, let me tell you. A preacher prays for his people, but a pastor prays with his people. There's been lots of preachers around here, not too many pastors. Now, which one are you?"

Some thirty years have come and gone since that question was put to me so plainly, and I have tried to put the old man's wisdom into practice as a pastor, hopefully the kind that would make Lindley smile. Some day in Heaven he's probably going to ask me if I ever learned the difference, and I'll know what to say next time.

Thank you, Lord, for getting me through the rain and the mud on that gloomy afternoon so that one of your old saints could point this preacher boy in the right direction. God bless him.

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