Today marks a Vine Fellowship sponsored celebration of my pastoring here for 20 years. Little did I know when God called me to ‘pastor the people he would send me’ here in Arlington that I would be here 20 years. I am a plodder, long termer, and a finisher (probably from my marathon running days)!
As I reflected this week on this milestone accomplishment in my life and ministry, I thought of the many joys, a few heartaches, and numerous accomplishments. I do have regrets and if I had it to do over would be much wiser in my decisions and pastoring skills.
For instance, one do over was during a time when the church was packed out with new people attending every Sunday. I had been healed of ‘spinal stenosis’ in both my upper neck and lower back. I had been told I needed surgery and would never run again nor play tennis, etc. My wife had to dress me, sleep escaped me, and the pain was excruciating! But, it was the Sunday after my healing and in an overwhelming emotional response I went down to a visiting guest speaker and danced a little jig with him. The next week, a lot of those visitors were gone never to return. Guess I offended people with my celebration. (So did David when he danced before the Lord!) Go figure!
Another time was when I was talking to a member who was upset with me. I asked him to come in to see me and let’s not have this discussion over the phone. He declined and then I did a big piece of stupid by saying ‘If you were a man you would come in to see me!’ I lost both he and his wife and finally experienced their unbridled anger in my office. Ouch! (Only share these openly so you Pastors won’t do them!)
There have been heartaches that besides my loving faithful wife Debi standing by my side, I endured alone. The funeral of one of the men instrumental in my coming here, a loyal supporter and constant encourager was very hard for me. None knew of my heartache as I said goodbye to him and felt alone and now very vulnerable. Another time was when a leader moved away. He was the best encourager that I had and ‘had my back.’ It was a dark day for me when he left.
Disappointing was the fact that the church never grew to be a mega church (after all success is built on the attendance of your church, right?) I endured others who felt they could pastor the members of The Vine better than I could and unwittingly help establish other churches in the area. Members that I had cared for through the years decided that they could find a better Pastor or church, and again I help make other churches ‘successful’ by sowing people to them.
But, God has given me many more glorious memories than regrets! I have led many people to Christ, seen marriages restored even in the devastation of adultery and bitterness, seen families healed and restored, seen members mature in their faith, helped many through the loss of loved ones, sat at the bedside of dying members, seen members pursue a calling in the ministry, seen countless verifiable healings by the power of God, have received much encouragement and support from the Vine members, and seen many volunteers serve God and this church.
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. Ps 78:70-72 NIV
Would I serve here had I to do it all over again even knowing what I was going to experience these 20 years. You betcha! I would do it without a second thought!
Thank you Vine Fellowship for making these the best years of my life. I love you all!
(I also want to thank the love of my life, my greatest encourager, my soul mate, my faithful wife Debi for helping along this journey. I love you dear, you’re absolutely wonderful! Yes she is!)