Roanoke, Texas: This weekend I had the honor of returning to participate in the centennial celebration of the First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Texas. This historic old church in south Denton County began its ministry in 1874 and moved to its current location in 1910. Over its 136 year history fifty-two pastors served the church, and I had the privilege of being one of its youngest pastors back in 1982. These hardy people called me to be their pastor when I was at the ripe old age of twenty-two years old!
As I look back on their willingness to take a risk on a kid, I am filled with gratitude. In Roanoke, I was ordained, performed my first wedding, baptized my first follower of Jesus, and stood at the table of our Lord as we celebrated communion. Among these saints, I led my first business meeting and worked closely with a small band of deacons who loved me and believe in me.
As I mixed among my friends, I was amazed at the flood of memories. It was also interesting to learn how I was remembered. No one spoke of my sermons, but one lady remembered the week I worked with her husband digging out the sewer line at the parsonage. Another member commented how I impacted her husband because I spent time with him and reached out to him as a friend. When I thank one of the older ladies for her love and support—for raising me as such—she said “We always looked up to you.” This homecoming was good for me. It reminded me of the lessons of “incarnational” ministry. It is not so much what we say, but how we live that makes all the difference. People don’t remember our sermons they remember us as servant leaders.
As I begin my ministry in El Paso, I pray I will not forget the lessons I learned when I was wet behind the ears. I pray I will not forget to “love and lead” the people of God.
Footnote: When you choose to love you also take the risk of being wounded and hurt, but it is worth the risk. Always lead with love and grace and trust God for the results.