Saturday, July 28, 2012

Going Back or Going Home?

After ten weeks here in Arlington, it's time to head back to Missouri for our big moving day. People have been so patient and gracious with me as I learn my way around and get a feel for our new church and community. With each passing week I'm getting acquainted and getting to know the wonderful people of Memorial Baptist Church.

So now it's time to take my daughter back for her second year of college and bring my wife, Suzanne, out here for good, along with a truckload of stuff. I know she will love it here and catch up quickly. And, I know I'll be a better pastor with my partner around all the time.

It's a strange mix of emotions this weekend as I anticipate the long road trip. Am I leaving home or am I going home? Is it possible to go back without going home? Is home where you are or where you were, where you are going to be or where you used to be? Is home all about our history or is it more about our present and future?

Thinking it over, I choose today over yesterday. Missouri is where my family is, where my roots are, but it's not my home anymore. Home is today. Home is here and now. Home is right smack dab in the middle of God's will for my life today.

Don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to seeing family and friends this next week. And this fall I will wear my black and gold and root for Mizzou even if I can't watch all the games. But my home is in Virginia and my ministry is Memorial Baptist Church. Our new home is home for me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fighting for Your Life

I got a call this afternoon from a friend back in Missouri. His wife has been diagnosed with cancer and he asked me if I would call and pray and, of course, I did and I will. So begins yet another family's battle. Tests and biopsies, surgery and recovery, weighing the treatment options and making tough choices. I know that many of you have been or are now fighting those same kinds of battles with illness and disease. My sister was given a t-shirt when she was fighting for her life that said, "Hey, Cancer! This time you messed with the wrong girl!" That's a pretty good way to express the strong, determined attitude we all need to have in those fearful, traumatic times.

As a pastor I know all too well the bottom line truth about these bodies of ours. Sometimes we get well, sometimes we don't. And eventually we all fall victim to our frail mortality. But Paul reminds us, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV)

That means that one of these days, like a butterfly emerging from the old cocoon, we will leave these earthbound bodies behind and take flight, take wing. On that first Easter maybe the angel at the tomb should have had a bright t-shirt or maybe some spray paint on that huge stone. "Hey, Death! This time you messed with the wrong Guy!"

If you are fighting for your life today, hang in there. Be strong. Don't give up or give in to your fear. Keep fighting. One of these days, our last enemy is going down for good.

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