Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Mentor for the Moment

When I was a young pastor fresh out of seminary and struggling to figure out the needs of my small town congregation, I attended a preaching conference at the Lake of the Ozarks. My little church had been declining for some time and I felt so helpless to turn it around. I had no idea how to move these good folks in a positive direction. One afternoon I skipped out on the conference schedule and sat down at a picnic table under a shade tree. I flipped through my legal pad of scribbled ideas and notes, but nothing there lit my fire. It's a scary thing, trying to lead with no real vision or direction.

About that time, a man came by who I immediately recognized as one of the conference leaders, Dr. Robert Dale. I guess he wasn't leading an afternoon session and didn't seem to mind that I was skipping out. He sat down, we said hello, and after taking a moment to get acquainted he said, "Good to meet you, Drew. Tell me about your church."

So began my own practical, personalized, pastoral workshop. When we finished our conversation two hours later, I had a plan, the tools I needed, and an excitement to hurry home and get started. What a gift he gave to me, and I didn't even buy him a coke. My ministry changed that day and God has blessed each of the churches I have served because of that one conversation.

Bob Dale is a Missouri native like myself, but he's been serving here in Virginia for many years. God has used his life and ministry in wonderful ways. Five of his books sit on my shelf, all dealing with leadership in the context of congregational life. Bob knows his stuff.

Twenty-five years after our first encounter, I invited Bob to join us for my installation service here at Memorial Baptist Church, but he was unable to attend. What he did do for me was to send along a prayer, his prayer for me as I begin my service at Memorial. I was touched and blessed by his thoughtful words and I want to share them with you.

Father---

As Drew begins his ministry and continues Your ministry at Memorial, may the covenant between pastor and people grow strong.  Take him into the core of the congregation so he can belong fully; then, position him on the edge of the fellowship so he can see back into its life with clarity as well as see forward toward needs beyond Memorial.

Welcome him to a culture of uniqueness, and root him in the soil of a world city.  Give him eyes to see opportunities, ears to hear distress calls, a heart for outreach not attended to by others, and courage to challenge Your people. 

Nuture his soul.  Stretch his horizons.  Surround and support him with a cloud of witnesses.  Give him imagination.  Orient his life toward You.  Blend his "show-me" spirit into the ethos of mixes of rich heritages.

Encourage his family.  Enrich his interests.  Hold him in the palm of Your hand.

Amen

2 comments:

Jeff Buscher said...

Very nice Drew. I will be at an Inter-Faith Conference at Howard University in DC. Staying with a friend in Lorton, VA - He is a Army Chaplain Lt Colonel, at Ft Belvior. I have no Idea whether I would have an hour or so to get together, but I would like to try. I am starting DMin work this fall. I arrive Sunday afternoon - leave Tues evening. I know DC traffic is nuts. I'll do some mapping, maybe I can come to you. July 8-10
Was great to see Sam a few weeks ago,
Blessings, Jeff

Dave said...

Great prayer that puts things in perspective to where you are. Good job mentoring too!