Thirty years ago today I was ordained to the gospel ministry at Faith Presbyterian Church in Morganton, North Carolina. You only get one first church, and this one couldn’t have been better. Loving and caring and encouraging, its members will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Apart from my sons’ and grandchildren’s birthdays and the anniversary of my marriage to Lynne, my ordination day is the most memorable and important date in my life. Lynne makes the day special – a card, gift, and dinner – just one example of the many ways she stands beside me in my work.
My interest in the ministry began long before I ever preached. Since I was a teenager, I wanted to to be a pastor. My Dad influenced the direction my life would take. His care for congregations inspired me, and as I watched him go about his work, I sensed that pastoral ministry was the life God wanted for me. Dad’s moving prayer at my ordination service meant the world to me.
Certainly, ministry is full of joy, as well as challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. It deals with matters of eternal consequence. “Who is sufficient for these things?” Scottish Presbyterian minister James S. Stewart was right: “the first duty of a minister is to be a real man of prayer. Nothing one can do for God or man is so important as that. To maintain the spirit of prayer is just about the greatest thing a Christian (or anyone in the ministry very specially) can do for the world.”
For three decades God has given me the privilege of serving a succession of godly people in Christ-centered churches. So, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Paul calls the Philippian believers his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1). That’s how pastors feel and think about their congregations, and that’s how I do.
For the beloved people I’ve served I thank God today.