Yesterday we had our monthly pastoral conference and one of the assignments was titled “Wisdom of the ages”. Isn’t that a pretentious title? They asked older Pastors what they had learned, some thoughts on ministry. I offered this story.
What I learned in ministry.
When Pastor Henry Gray accepted the call, he saw it as a church where he could do some very effective work. He saw a field where his special talents and growth in ministry would be most useful for the kingdom. So he accepted the call after much prayer and thought. An interesting sidelight was that the District President was a son of this congregation and had urged Pastor Gray to accept it. He was installed as Pastor on a June evening service by the District President. The service was well attended, and the reception after while showed a membership excited to have a new Pastor after nearly a year of having none.
Of course there were problems. The circuit Counselor and the congregation’s leadership had been forthright in laying out the work that Pastor Gray faced here.
What he was not aware of was the table. Grandma Schmidt’s table. Grandma Schmidt, long time and respected member of the church, had died in the past month. She was mourned by all. BUT, two of the daughter laid claim to a rickety table they said “Mom told me I was to have it”. As happens now and then, neither was giving in, and the result was two camps. The Ladies Aid was divided, the voter’s meeting was divided, children fought. The congregation really was in turmoil over this table.
The congregations’ chairman and the chairman of the board of Elders had told Pastor Henry Gray this horror story the morning after his installation. What to do.
He called the ladies and their husbands into a meeting at the Church that week Wednesday. They came, reluctantly, and sat down with Pastor Gray. He thanked them for coming, and prayed, and then told them the story of Jonah. They listened, thinking ‘what is this”, for they knew the story of Jonah. But they really didn’t. Because Pastor Gray opened the bible to the last chapter of Jonah and asked them to read it again while he stepped out for 15 minutes or so.
When Pastor came back he asked them about what they had read. Then he pointed out that Jonah was angry about a vine, while God was concerned about the 120000 in Nineveh, and the city’s souls.
Then Pastor Gray said. You are tearing this church apart because of a rickety table, while I am the Shepherd concerned for the 800 souls here now. Last week what happened here didn’t bother me, because I did know of it. Today it does, because I made a solemn promise to serve as God’s shepherd here, feeding ‘The flock of God which He purchased with His own blood”. Please, for your sake, and for the sake of many souls, for the sake of unity, settle this matter today, one way or another, but settle it.
They did. And they used that rickety table to make a fire to prepare a peace meal to celebrate the event with the entire congregation.
The entire family lived and worked in that congregation for years. And Pastor Gray served that congregation for many years with rich blessing for everyone, and glory to our God.