Today, September 18th, is my dad’s birthday. If he were still living on earth, he would turn 90 today. Shortly after his upward call to glory, I wrote some of my reflections on his impact on me as a father. Today, in gratitude for his many years of faithful ministry, I want to recount the story of how God moved him to step into pastoral ministry.
He took me to the very spot where it happened. We walked together into an empty church sanctuary in Everett, Washington. We made our way towards the front of the church, somewhere about the fourth or fifth row of seats. It was here my dad told me about a conversation that God used to significantly change the course of his life. And mine too.
The conversation he told me about had happened decades before, but the memories of it were still vivid to him. Two older women in his church—women known for their devotion to Christ and their faithful prayers—had pulled him aside after a Sunday service.
“Maynor,” they said, “we’ve been watching you. And we think God may want you to be a pastor.”
My father had been active in ministry over the years. He led a Christian club at Everett High School and was significantly involved in serving at the church. These two women had seen in him the kind character and capabilities needed for fruitful ministry. Though he didn’t know it, they had been praying for him. And they had been praying about this conversation. One Sunday after church they approached him and challenged him to consider vocational service.
That conversation changed the course of my dad’s life. While the thought of Christian ministry had crossed his mind, he was still unsure, uncertain he was cut out to be a pastor. The affirmation of two respected, praying women gave him the courage to take the next step.
After finishing an undergraduate degree, he headed off to Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. He went there to prepare for a lifetime of ministry as a pastor or missionary. At Multnomah, he not only received quality theological preparation, he also met the woman who would be his partner in life and ministry. My dad and mom served the Lord in four churches over the next four decades.
He finished his ministry as a pastor to pastors for his denomination. The churches my dad pastored flourished under his teaching, leading and shepherding. His example shaped me and helped prepare me for a lifetime pastoral ministry.
In 2005, my dad was given the sobering news that he had Alzheimer’s disease. Over the ensuing years, he walked through the valley of the shadow. It was a difficult journey, filled with grief but strengthened by grace.
One morning, when dad was in hospice, I was alone with him in his room. I picked up a thick, binder filled with letters of appreciation from people in a church he had pastored for over twenty years. I read through dozens of the letters. Some thanked him for faithfully teaching God’s Word, week after week, year after year.
Many expressed gratitude for the way he and my mother lived out the truth they taught to others. There were many references to his sense of humor, his devotion to prayer, his hospital and home visits. Some wrote to thank him for helping them work through marriage problems; others for helping them come to know Christ in a personal, life-changing way.
I was moved at the stories of how God had used a faithful servant to impact the lives of many people. Not just for time but for eternity. I’m also moved at the impact of the two women who affirmed my dad’s gifts and challenged him to consider ministry so many years ago. I wonder if the story of his life would have been different without that conversation. Only God knows.
I can’t help thinking that there are still men and women who need a personal word of encouragement and challenge to affirm and strengthen a sense of God’s calling on their lives. I believe there are others, like my dad, who need godly, respected spiritual leaders to speak into their lives and affirm their gifts and calling. God uses those conversations to change lives in a way we won’t fully know until heaven.
I’m so thankful for the influence my dad had on me, my sisters, and on so many others.
I’m also thankful for the two women who noticed his character and gifting, prayed for him, and encouraged him to pursue pastoral ministry.
Let me ask you: Should you be pursuing a life of vocational ministry? Is there someone you know who could use your words of encouragement to move towards pastoral ministry?