I’ve heard a rumor that October is “Pastor Appreciation Month.” I have a poignant reminder by my office door that reminds me of how blessed I am to be a part of our church family. It is a framed photo of my family from seven years ago. My oldest child was the age of my youngest child and my youngest child was still but a glimmer in his parent’s eyes. I had more hair and fewer pounds. On the matting around that photograph are the words, “I Will Pray for You” and the signatures of many of the people who were part of our church. Now, some of those folks have moved on to other churches. Some have grown up and moved to college. Unfortunately, some have quit going to church altogether. And some have even gone on to be with the Lord. Many of you that signed the matting of that photograph are faithfully in your places every Sunday morning. When the search committee asked me for a photograph, I wasn’t sure what they were going to do with it. Then I saw the matting and the frame and knew that I would ALWAYS want that picture and frame hanging in my office.
There are a lot more of you here than there was then. In fact, our church has nearly doubled in size since I preached for the very first time in Northside’s pulpit on October 23, 2005. That’s a testimony to your work as a church. You’ve been busy! You’ve worked hard making disciples. You’ve been visiting your neighbors. You’ve loved guests as they’ve worshipped at our church. You’ve help begin new ministries to increase our presence in the community. You’ve coached soccer teams, listened to children memorize scriptures, made your seat available for a guest, and even parked out in the gravel lot to save the best parking for those who need it the most.
I know that this is supposed to be a day to “appreciate the pastor” but you need to hear from your pastor that I APPRECIATE YOU. I hear many stories from colleagues who are serving in difficult churches with big problems and my heart breaks for them. Over the last couple of months, we’ve been receiving resumes for our new associate pastor and I’ve been astonished to see how many senior pastors, currently serving, have applied for our job opening. When a senior pastor applies for a youth pastor’s position, it usually means that he is at a difficult church and is just looking for a way to get out.
When I see these things, all I can think is, “I really love my church.” When I leave the hospital after visiting the sick, or when I have lunch with someone who needs some guidance, or when I greet you at the back door on Sunday mornings, or when I serve along side you on the soccer field, I am convinced that I serve the greatest bunch of people in the world. And I APPRECIATE YOU. I am more excited today to be the pastor of this church than I was seven years ago when I preached here for the very first time.
I follow a guy on Twitter who calls himself “The Unappreciated Pastor” (@Rev_Norespect). He is a satirist and basically makes fun of the way we do church. The other day, he said something that really struck me. He said, “As a Baptist pastor I spend most of my time praying…that God will send me to another church.” As sad as that statement is, I wonder how many pastors have similar sentiments?
Thankfully, when I consider my church, I feel much like the Apostle Paul did about the church in Phillipi. He told them in the opening verses of his letter to them, “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Northside, you are MUCH APPRECIATED! I count it a great honor to lead such great people!