The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 2 March/April 2012

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From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 58 Number 2 March/April 2012

The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
Ken Floyd
MARBC Executive Director

“Shepherds”

Writer Alan Smith shares the story about a preacher who went into children’s church to talk with the children about Psalm 23. He told the children about sheep, that they weren’t smart and needed lots of guidance, and that a shepherd’s job was to stay close to the sheep, protect them from wild animals and keep them from wandering off and doing dumb things that would get them hurt or killed.

The pastor pointed to the children in the room and said that they were sheep and needed lots of guidance. Then he asked rhetorically, “If you are the sheep, then who is the shepherd?” He was obviously indicating himself.

There was silence for a few moments. Then one of the children replied, “Jesus. Jesus is the shepherd.” The pastor was obviously caught by surprise and said to the boy,” Well, then, who am I?” The little boy thought for a moment and then said with a shrug, “I guess you must be a sheep dog!” (Alan Smith’s Thought for the Day, October 28, 2011)

Perhaps the little boy helped make a good distinction in regards to the inner working of the local church. In his first letter the Apostle Peter referred to Jesus as the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4) so as to draw a distinction between Christ and the other “shepherds” of the church. In some ways the spiritual leaders that we call “pastors” are like “sheep dogs” because they fulfill the role of keeping watch over the flock while also being submissive and accountable to the Chief Shepherd, ready to follow His every command.

One of the great joys of serving in the church of Jesus Christ is to be a part of the rich heritage that is established and perpetuated by generations of Christians who love God and love others. And, one of our great blessings as a result of sharing in dozens of churches in the M.A.R.B.C. is to meet many of God’s special servants whose ministries elevate others to new levels of spiritual opportunity. Whether it is a dedicated Sunday School teacher, a caring child care worker, a serving deacon, prayer warrior, faithful witness, or shepherding pastor, there are spiritual giants serving in our midst.

Following this column is a news item relating to the heavenly home-going of veteran servant Dr. Charles Hart. For almost a century the Lord chose to use this special servant to be an effective under-shepherd in the local church and to also have decades of influence through his role as Director of GitcheGumee Bible Camp in the Upper Peninsula’s beautiful Copper Country.

Two pastoral couples have recently transitioned from their last “full-time” ministry in the pastorate. One couple has faithfully served in the economically challenged city of Flint. The other has served in the equally challenged, yet hardly noticed Upper Peninsula town of Wakefield near the Wisconsin border.

Reflecting upon the ministry of Dr. Hart and these pastoral couples brings to mind the admonition shared in 1 Timothy 5:17,”Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” Likewise, Christians are admonished in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ” … to recognize those who labor among you, and who are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”

As was reported in the January-February 2012 issue of the “Baptist Testimony,” Harold Constant his wife, Nancy, have served in the pastorate for over 41 years including 23 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Flint. Harold reflected upon the conclusion of his full-time ministry in his final column in the church’s monthly newsletter, “The Voice of Emmanuel.”

“… And Finally Brethren!” The book of Ecclesiastes represents Solomon’s philosophy of life, some of it good, and some not so good. Solomon was a pragmatist, and in the end didn’t see all the pieces come together. Yet, I believe he came to realize that life had many stages that we must traverse. We can do so gracefully with thanksgiving, or with a complaining heart.

Everything has it’s time:
“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up; A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away; A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak; A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I learned from my mother, the importance of going from one stage of life to another, accepting the present circumstances, and never looking back to the way things used to be. You see, at one time my mother lived in a mansion on the lake with a full time nanny and gardener. She lived as royalty, but later in life things weren’t so good, and she needed to sell fruit on the side of the road. I asked her often about how she had adjusted, and her answer was the same. “Life goes on, and the stages of life go on. Never compare the present with the past, accept each new circumstance with thanksgiving and endeavor to make the best of the present.” Mother was ninety-nine when she died, but she did so as a “healthy” woman with a stellar attitude.

And now it is time for me to apply what mother taught all these years. As we go into semi-retirement, life will not be the same; and although I know retirement is the right decision, it does have some challenges. Other than when on vacation, I have preached two or three times a week for almost forty-five years. But now as we enter into a new chapter in our lives, I must do so with grace and gratitude.

Though I will be leaving full time ministry, I do so with a full cup. My years in the ministry were very fulfilling. What I have learned, especially at Emmanuel, could fill a book or two. The challenges of everyday life have kept me motivated, the love and support of the church family kept me energized, and the blessing that came every day kept me encouraged. If God has gifted me, it is with the capacity to remember and rejoice in the good moments, while at the same time blotting out the difficult ones.

… For now, I will say thank you for your kindness to our entire family. You have all gone above and beyond to show the love of Christ. We leave with many, many heartfelt memories. You will all be missed!

Similar to Harold and Nancy Constant, Pastor Tom and Delores Bauder conclude a fruitful ministry at Calvary Baptist Church at the end of February.

“Our little corner congregation will soon be minus one member. One is a small number, but the loss of this one will leave a huge hole. Pastor Tom Bauder is leaving our area for the warmth and sunshine of Arizona. And some much needed, well-earned R and R. Selfishly, I’d like to say, ‘No, stay.’ I’m sure I’m not in the minority in that wish. But recognizing that by staying, he’d be jeopardizing health and the family time that awaits him in retirement, we’ll swallow our own druthers and whisper, ‘Go with God.’

Pastor Tom’s real congregation is Calvary Baptist. Our little ‘corner congregation’ is the right hand booth and bistro table at Randall’s Bakery. And while he was an occasional, rather than regular member of our gathering, his presence was always a gift to us. As congregations go, we’re a pretty motley crew: Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, lapsed and active – probably more Catholic members, but my personal belief is that we lean toward the Lutheran side. This may not be true in theology, but for sure in practice. Why? Because there’s food and coffee. Give us Lutherans food and coffee and we will come.

Our beliefs and practices are freely discussed in the corner – no religious arguments (unlike the political topics we address), but a comfortable sharing. One of Pastor Tom’s gifts is his ability to join a group like ours and share in these discussions, not like a ‘listen to me resident authority,’ but a gentle, conversational manner. He clarified, enlightened, broadened perspectives, but never lectured or sermonized. You recognized the depth of his faith, his commitment, and the vast knowledge he holds, and yet he never made anyone feel less wise for their own questions. It’s truly a gift to possess such vast wisdom without being ‘in your face’ with it. He shared. He did not beat us about with his beliefs. And thus he earned our respect and admiration.

And our laughter. This isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a minister, but like his wisdom, humor is also a gift Pastor Tom holds in great abundance. It is to his credit that we each felt comfortable sharing our less serious sides. We most definitely are not plaster saints, and he accepted us as-is, and joined us, both in laughter and tears.

It is a rare testament to a man’s character to say he entered a town and touched hearts and minds wherever he went, be it restaurants, meeting rooms or chapels. Pastor Tom Bauder did just that. He was an asset in any gathering he joined. I know his people at Calvary Baptist will miss him greatly. So will his friends from other congregations, and organizations, and fellowships. We are all richer for his presence. We will all feel the loss of his departure.

Go into the sunshine of Arizona, good friend. But remember with fondness the friends you made in the frozen North. And, for a moment, set humility aside and know you made an impact. You touched hearts, changed perspectives, and left your mark on us and on our community.

Challenges and blessing await you in the desert. Prayers and good wishes will follow you from the snow banks. For a minister, you’re an all right guy! Wishing your circle holds at last one member who is there with wisdom and humor whenever you need it. And that he or she shares both with subtlety or abundance is just the perfect measure.”

Finishing well for God’s glory is something that all Christians should make as their ultimate spiritual priority. Regardless of our role in the church, serving to bring honor to our Wonderful Lord should be our daily desire and motivation. As he met for a final time with the Ephesian elders that he had earlier trained, the Apostle Paul declared that to be his goal, even though it would often mean personal tribulation and facing tremendous opposition. He testified to the elders: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

Later, in reflecting upon his final days of earthly ministry, Paul would pen these words of testimony to his spiritual prot’eg’e, Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

And while we are on the subject, may I share that it is a much easier run to the finish line if we have others cheering us on as we “press on toward the goal of the prize” (Philippians 3:14). Too often it seems that we tend to sit on the sidelines as critical spectators rather than being engaged in the race as encouraging participants ourselves. Words of spiritual encouragement are always timely and especially needed in these current days of spiritually challenging ministry. Don’t just assume that your pastor knows that you appreciate him and his family, tell him! And, by all means, pray for him.

If you are a pastor, I hope that you can appreciate the little boy’s view of your role as a sheep dog. And, for those who are a part of the flock, I trust that you will heed the admonition of Hebrews 13:7, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.”

In his book, “I Shall Not Want,” GARBC National Representative Dr. Robert Ketchum tells about a Sunday School teacher who asked her group of children if any of them could quote the entire twenty-third Psalm. A little girl raised her hand and was called to the front of the class. She then recited, “The Lord is my Shepherd, that’s all I want.” Then she bowed and returned to her seat. She may have paraphrased quite a bit, but she certainly captured the heart of David’s Shepherd’s Psalm!

May all of us be encouraged that our Chief Shepherd endlessly watches over us and provides everything that we need, and then some!

You have His Word on it! (KEF)

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