It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog entry and a lot has happened since then. September found me in the emergency ward of the hospital suffering from an intense pain in my back. It was so bad that I went to the hospital early on a Sunday morning on which I was scheduled to preach. In 40 plus years of ministry I have only cancelled out three times on a Sunday morning which gives you some idea of how hard it was for me to do so. This time I had no choice.
The back pain was caused by a huge kidney stone that required surgery. Between waiting for the surgery and then recovering from the surgery, this was not a normal fall season. There was one positive that came out of it. As a pastor I have visited with people suffering from kidney stones and tried to bring to them a measure of sympathy and spiritual comfort but I must confess that my concern was somewhat surface level. It isn’t any longer. From this point on I will approach anyone with a kidney stone with the deepest sympathy that I can muster. There is nothing like going through something yourself to help you feel for anyone else that goes through it.
The church’s response
I am so fortunate to serve as the pastor of a truly caring church. Our church might be small but it is supportive. The church leaders approached me to ask if they should line up guest speakers when I had my surgery. I had the surgery on a Tuesday and thought that I might be able to preach the following Sunday. I told my leaders that I would probably be able to do so but I didn’t get the chance. On Wednesday they phoned and told me they were lining up a speaker and that I was to recover and not worry about the church that week. As it turned out that was exactly what I needed to do. I am so thankful for a church that loves me and shows that love in a bunch of practical ways.
For much of my ministry life I have been told that for a church to be successful, it needs to experience numerical growth. I just don’t believe it. I’m not suggesting that love like my church showed me can only happen in a small church. There are lots of large churches that care about and minister to their members. It can happen in any size church but it most naturally happens in small churches. It certainly happened in my church and I have a feeling that you have seen it again and again in the small church where you serve.
My wife’s response
My wife (Gloria) and I co-pastor New Dundee Baptist Church. We have always co-pastored to some extent but at New Dundee it is official. She is so much more gifted than I am in certain areas of pastoral care which means that the people at New Dundee are receiving better care than I could ever give on my own.
One of the sacrifices that pastors make is that when they go through difficult times they don’t have a pastor. They are the pastor for everyone else but there is no one to pastor them. Over the years we have gone through some tough times when we would have loved to have had a pastor to visit us, pray for us and just be there when life got difficult.
Gloria and I celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary this year. For all that time she has been an amazing wife. I have been so blessed by the care that she has given me. This time though I was doubly blessed. Not only did she take care of me as a loving wife but she was my pastor as well. There are definitely blessings in co-pastoring.
During the time that I was suffering from the kidney stone some wonderful things happened in ministry. I was able to put together a committee that is overseeing a study on small churches in Canada that I will be doing in partnership with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. To the best of my knowledge there has never been a study done specifically on small churches. It is my prayer that this will result in practical help for small churches all across the country.
In the days ahead I will be sharing some other things that happened over the past few months but the amazing thing was that I was able to function almost at full capacity whenever I needed to do so while I was waiting for the surgery. In fact I had the first meeting with the committee that is overseeing the study that I mentioned in the previous paragraph on the day before the surgery took place. I was able to chair that meeting without pain for which I am thankful. God gave me relief when I most needed relief.
I am so fortunate to have the church, the wife and most of all the God that I have. It has been a time of experiencing God’s blessing on my life.