Leader, Elder…Friend.

In the narrow part of Virginia that is right up against Tennessee and Kentucky is a small town called St Charles.   St. Charles is the place where a group of believers first had the audacity to PAY this young (then) rookie to be their minister.  Still a college student I drove there every weekend back in 1973 from Knoxville to test my abilities on a group of about 25 unsuspecting senior saints.
While preaching there I learned a lot about what I didn’t know.   I also began to appreciate how desperately I needed to have input and council from older and wiser men.  One piece of council from those days came back to mind today.   I was told that it was all too common for ministers to serve in churches where the leadership and preacher have a somewhat adversarial relationship.   But you might —  on a rare occasion —  be blessed along the way with a group of men who would see you as an equal, treat you as a co-laborer, and count you as a friend.  If that happens — treasure it!

That was my experience at Chewton Christian Church, Wampum, PA.  Early this morning I learned that a Deal-John-200x268dear friend from my time ministering in Wampum died suddenly this past week.  Jack was a great guy.   He was a true friend.   Jack was one of several reasons we agreed to uproot and move to Chewton area back in 1991, and he and his family were one the many reasons it wasso hard to leave in 1997.

Admittedly we haven’t had much contact in recent years — and that is regrettable.  We have heard news from third parties, and on occasion Jack and family would run into my wife at her work place.

I was their spiritual leader — and as an elder, Jack was still my “boss”.  But during time spent around the bonfire in his back yard — or eating at one of the local diners — those labels disappeared and we were just a couple of dads trying to do the best we could as the spiritual heads of our families.

The other men of the leadership there were also friends and colleagues — and fortunately they are still living and sharing their witness.  In 1991 Jack and the guys took a chance on a relatively young preacher and supported him even when things were a bit off the wall.

I look forward to seeing them and sharing in the joy of our friend getting to “go home”.   Despite the forecast for bad weather we are making the trip back to Chewton to say goodbye.  Jack has earned that.
As you grow in your discipleship I would challenge you to do all in your power to be that type of church leader.   Be a friend, a colleague, a guide,  a shepherd — whatever role is called for — to your pastor.  Jack wasn’t perfect – and he knew I wasn’t either.   Together we sought to be like Jesus.  And that’s a life worth living…..

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