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A Tribute to Our Shepherd Pastors

I don’t know who said it first, but my daddy always quoted J. Vernon McGee as saying, “We should always be ready to preach, pray, or die.” But growing up going to church, I found that there was more to being a pastor than preaching a sermon: 

A pastor must not only teach God’s Word, but shepherd God’s people. 

And I’ve been blessed to have many such John 21:15-17 shepherd pastors in my life…

Pastor Franklin faithfully preached the Word for forty years at my grandparents’ church. I spent many a Sunday morning and evening during my growing up years listening to his expository Bible teaching. Pastor Franklin performed so many weddings (including my parents’!) and baby dedications for our family, and was part of so many barbecues and special events, that he and Mrs. Franklin felt like family. He always had a twinkle in his eye, along with a hunting story to tell or a fossil to show–and probably a tomato to share from his garden. (Pastor Franklin retired from my grandparents’ church only four years before God took him Home a year ago today.) 

Pastor Jaskilka was pastor of my daddy’s church during his college days (and also officiated at my parents’ wedding). Though I don’t specifically remember sitting under any of his sermons, I remember many times sitting around the kitchen table with Pastor and Mrs. Jaskilka; his ability to encourage and exhort went far beyond the pulpit.

Pastor Ron preached on forgiveness in a way that my tender tween heart could understand. Pastor Ron and Anna ministered to us through a difficult time in our family and our church. I was young but I’ll never forget how they loved us enough to lead us and then leave us so we could continue to heal and grow. 

Pastor Bill and Cindy have hearts the size of their home state of Texas, and they wrapped our church family in that love. Pastor Bill led worship with his guitar and preached the Bible with his Texan “fixin’ to” flair. Pastor Bill was one of the pastors who was part of our own wedding, retelling our love story and leading us in singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” We’re so grateful for Pastor Bill and Cindy’s faithfulness in (still!) serving the community in which I grew up.

Pastor and Mrs. Haase took me under their wing when I joined the drama troupe, youth group, and evening service at their church in my teens. They prayed for me, encouraged me, and then counseled Merritt and me through our engagement. I often play our wedding video over just to hear Pastor Haase’s sermon of exhortation again. We’re so grateful for how they not only loved us and counseled us, but showed us with their lives what a marriage partnership looked like. 

Pastor Bridges was our first pastor as a married couple. When my husband shattered his leg in an accident, that little congregation–where we’d visited only one Sunday–surrounded us and we knew we’d found our church family. Pastor Bridges was there in the hospital visiting Merritt; Pastor and Mrs. Bridges volunteered to man the storefront for our family business that week; and boys from the church moved irrigation pipe with my young brother-in-law that summer since Merritt couldn’t.

Pastor Steve and Karan stepped into the “interim” at our little church not once, but twice. They joined the work God was already doing, growing with us even in times of transition. Last summer, Pastor Steve took us through an excellent series on the traits of a healthy church. And then came a pandemic, and Pastor Steve started teaching us online and then in the church parking lot. We’re so grateful for how Pastor Steve and Karan have helped our church navigate change time and time again.

Pastor Dan came to our church when our oldest daughter was six months old. One of the first things we noticed about him is that his illustrations were all from real life and ministry–he had lived what he preached. His sermons were always biblical, always practical, and always under an hour. But he did more than just preach; he was a caring shepherd. He was there in the hospital praying with us before our two-month-old son had surgery. He was there in the hospital praying for us as I labored through the high-risk delivery of our youngest. He was the pastor who read books aloud to my children when he came over for dinner, the pastor who baptized two of my children, the pastor who baked caramel rolls for so many church functions, and the pastor who worked at VBS along with his wife and the other volunteers. He would often “meddle” in his sermons, but it was always needed. We are so grateful for the eleven years our beloved Pastor Dan and Ginger invested in loving and serving our church and our community before their retirement in 2019.

Pastor Jim has always been there to fill the pulpit when needed and he always ends his sermon with a song–sometimes a solo, sometimes a duet with his lovely wife Lou. Pastor Jim spent years of fill-in sermons preaching his way through the book of James, and he’s one of the “patient farmers” James talks about. (He’s even driven tractor for us more than once when Merritt was injured and unable to.) His memorable examples are from his own walk with the Lord, and he always makes us laugh. Pastor Jim loves the Lord and His Word, and it’s so evident in his care as an elder and in his passion in preaching. 

Pastor Tim and his wife Chris are moving to a new state to pastor a small town church at the end of the year 2020. We don’t know them well yet, but we’re so grateful for their willingness to come to our church and point us to God’s Word.

To each of you pastors and wives who have invested in me and in my family: thank you for your faithfulness to preach God’s Word and to shepherd His people.

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