pastor (4)

pastor: n. a Christian minister; a shepherd
(#4 in a 22-part series)

To understand what’s going on with this series, read the intro to the first installment (posted Mon., Oct. 2).

Stanley Sayers. Stanley blessed me years before we knew each other. He did that by being a prolific reader and an accomplished author.

Understand, I grew up an avid reader and the bookcase along the north wall of my parent’s living room was my primary library. I grew up reading virtually everything my parents placed on the shelves there. The World Book Encyclopedia (yes, I read, not merely referenced, encyclopedias). Hardback copies of American Heritage magazine (my favorite). Years and years of The Reader’s Digest (my second favorite). Volumes of biographies on World War Two veterans from Oklahoma. Two Dr. Seuss books. Issues of ‘Popular Science’ and ‘The Voice of Freedom.’ A picture Bible. Many letters from my grandmothers and some of my aunts. Religious tracts that my Grandmother Smith mailed us. Assorted books and magazines from the far right of the political spectrum (e.g. – John Birch Society material).

And … a handful of religious books, nearly all of them authored by a man named Stanley Sayers. His work entitled For This Cause I read again and again. (I don’t have a clue how his books got on our shelf, but I suspect they were likely either gifts from my Grandma Smith or from a very close family friend, Louis Chenault, who was a deacon in the Northside Church of Christ in my hometown … where Stanley preached during a portion of my growing up years).

Now when I first enrolled in the Westside School of Preaching (1978), Stanley was one of the instructors there and was also one of the first instructors that I met. I’d never met anyone who had written a book before nor anyone I had knowledge of having had authored articles for magazines. That was true though it was one of my distant kin who founded and edited ‘The Voice of Freedom.’ I mentioned such to him when we were introduced and, much to my delight, we talked books and writing in practically every conversation we ever shared in the years following. Time and again, standing together in his study, he’d think of something in a book that he’d want to show me, walk over to one of the shelves, find the volume, and almost immediately turn to the selection he wanted me to read, usually just a few sentences or paragraph. Simply amazing. Further, his tremendous memory was exceeded by his great kindness and thoughtfulness, ever abundant and free.

Thank you, Stanley, for nurturing within me the joy of learning, the love of religious reflection and writing, the value and importance of printed words, the need to understand the views of others and to learn from them, and the deep conviction that can come from all of those matters combined. You spoke to me most, ministered to me best, and in a sense you still do, through the printed word, and I will ever be grateful for that.

pastor (3)

pastor: n. a Christian minister; a shepherd
(#3 in a 22-part series)

To understand what’s going on with this series, read the intro to the first installment (posted Mon., Oct. 2).

Jerry Hurst. Jerry became the Westside Church’s associate minister roughly around the time I became a Christian (1976) and we became fast friends. He was also the director of a school of Bible and preaching* he had begun and, in fact, soon became Westside’s pulpit minister. Needless to say, he had a full plate.

And yet, I will tell you that few men in my life have ministered as powerfully to me as Jerry Hurst. How so? Primarily in three ways: (1) making time for me, (2) persisting in patient listening as I peppered him with a seemingly endless stream of questions and newborn babble, and (3) like an offensive tackle opening up all kinds of big and little doors of challenge and opportunity for me over and over and over again, he’d blast a hole in the line and then, in effect, tell me to run for daylight.

Four decades have passed and, at this moment, I can only recall a very few of the questions I ever posed him (i.e – what do you see I can do to help around here?; what on earth is Matthew 24 about?; and what are some good books I’d do well to read and own?), but his patience with me I will never, ever forget. He was patience personified. The way he’d roll his eyes at me whenever I’d always (rudely) barge in on him unannounced, gently shake his head, ask me what on earth it was that I wanted this time, give me that trademark Jerry Hurst smile, and then tell me (sometimes) to sit down, all the while knowing full well that whatever was about to happen was not going to be over with quickly.

LOL. Good times … that no doubt cost him way more time than I could have ever imagined at the time. Jerry was the first preacher I ever knew that I would come to know really well and refer to as “friend.”

Thank you, my friend, for investing much time in me and shepherding me in so many ways. Father God, do bless my friend in all ways and forever. Amen.

[ * The Westside School of Bible & Preaching was a three-year school in Duncan, OK, meeting all day long on Saturdays. I enrolled in WSBP in Jan. 1978 with no intent whatsoever of preaching, but simply to try to grow a bit as a Christian. However, by the time I early- graduated from WSBP (May 1980), I had been engaged in fill-in and part-time preaching on a virtually every week basis for close to a year. It was Jerry who first got me up to preach a sermon to a church and until Jan. 1980, every time I spoke with any church, anywhere, had been by his arrangement. ]

pastor (2)

pastor: n. a Christian minister; a shepherd
(#2 in a 22-part series)

To understand what’s going on with this series, read the intro to the first installment in this series. I posted that here yesterday (Oct. 2).

J.T. Marlin.* We had nothing in common. He was a very formal old-school preacher and I was a long-haired, awkward teen who wrestled with just trying to grasp what he was saying. Not for lack of education, eloquence, or effort on his part, you understand; if anything, he was highly polished and professional. It was simply that we were so very different and how can you “hear” anyone so different from yourself? But, I applied myself to the task, truly – though mainly just out of curiosity and respect, I must confess – and J.T. quickly picked up on that; he noticed that I was “listening,” not merely “hearing.”

And though he struggled for an exceedingly long time to simply learn and remember my name (something I found very humorous at the time, but I can oh, so relate to now!) I could tell that he knew I was trying. And so, somewhere in the course of virtually every sermon, he’d make what I could tell was deliberate just-for-me eye contact, multiple times. No small thing in a church of well over 400 in average attendance! Way more communication went on between us with eye contact than anything he ever verbalized to me. In fact, I don’t recall us ever even sharing so much as a single extended conversation! But, what he communicated with his eyes reinforced what Hubert Plumlee had conveyed to me in other ways. “We may be very different, but you matter to me (whoever your name is – LOL!) and what I’m saying matters to you.”

And so with his eyes, J.T. opened my eyes to God a bit more. Or as the old adage puts it well, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” J.T. cared, and I knew it.

Thank you for shepherding that then lost sheep with just your look, brother.

[* J.T. preached with what was then known as the Westside Church in Duncan, OK, across town from Eastside where Hubert Plumlee preached. Their ministries partially overlapped each other in time.]

pastor (1)

pastor: n. a Christian minister; a shepherd
(#1 in a 22-part series)

So it is that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. And so, each weekday this month (twenty-two days) I have resolved to pen a paragraph or two of heart-felt appreciation for what I perceive to be some specific and singular work of good shepherding of my soul performed by a preaching minister I have known within the heritage of Churches of Christ.

This list is, of course, quite incomplete; there are many other names I could add and the absence of a name in this series should not be construed as meaning anything but simply silence. It is rather random, too; the names that will appear are certainly not “ranked,” nor even merely in chronological order. Some of them have long since passed on; others still live in the flesh. In a sense, and in many instances, these preachers don’t even share a great deal in common with each other on a number of specific doctrines and beliefs; they cut no small swath across the theological spectrum. However, they do share this much in common: I knew them well (as in face-to face and over a significant period of time), they influenced and blessed my walk in Christ in some very real and practical ways, and so, I am deeply, spiritually indebted to them.

First up: Hubert Plumlee. Hubert was the first preacher I can say that I ever really “knew” and our connection came to be when I was midway thru high school,* indeed, before I ever started “going to church” as we say; before I was even a Christian. Looking back at how we met, I now perceive it as “the providence of God,” but in the eyes of the yet-to-believe, the encounter would certainly qualify as “pure, chance.” And while I could mention many things about him, I will note this one thing here: he believed the best about me. He trusted me in big and small ways and he didn’t have to tell me so; he made it that clear. He seemed to have a confidence in me that I did not have about myself by any stretch of the imagination. And that was huge to me at that time; gigantic I tell you. And so, for believing in me, Hubert, believing in me more than I believed in myself – for planting in me some sense of worth – I thank you, and thank God for you still to this day.

[ * – I first met Hubert in my hometown (Duncan, OK) when he was preaching with the Eastside Church in Duncan. Coincidentally, he also preached for a time with the Lakewood Church in Baytown, TX (though I can’t recall if that was right before or after his time in Duncan) and I now preach with the Missouri Street Church in Baytown. ]