Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Early Christmas gift provides escape from retirement
early for me this Christmas. Come January 1, I have a job. Eighteen months
after departing from Trinity Methodist in
I welcome the opportunity to escape. My wife is thrilled that I will be out of the house three days a week. Since my employment will be part-time, I will have three days left for her “Honey Do” list. I will be busy on the first day of the week, of course, but I find it difficult to call Sunday a workday. Even for pastors, it is a day of worship.
At first, I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my days as a traveling evangelist, but rather quickly, I became weary of preaching three days in a different church every week. While I enjoy preaching, I recognized a great need, in myself, to belong to a dynamic fellowship of believers where I can grow, serve, and be held accountable.
My wife and
I believe that Saint James United Methodist Church in
will meet that need. We will worship and serve there as I join the staff as Pastor of Congregational Care. Like most pastors, I realize that no matter what title one has, the job boils down to “whatever is needed.”
will be Dr. Lester Spencer, the son of the pastor I followed when I became
senior pastor of Trinity in
Will I find it difficult to serve under a man who is many years my junior? Not at all. I will simply try to have the attitude of Earl Ballard and Jimmy Allen who served with me at Trinity. They supported me to the fullest, overlooked my shortcomings, and helped me pick up the pieces when we failed. Like Aaron and Hur, I will lift up Lester’s arms when he is weary, so that he can fulfill the mission God has given him. If I can help him, and his staff, succeed, then I will be successful.
Earl and Jimmy were Aaron and Hur to me for many years. Not that I was a modern Moses. That I have not been. However, nobody can continue long and effectively in the service of God unless others, sharing the vision, come alongside to offer strength, encouragement, and hope.
is an exciting, growing church, east of
The church has a strong and dedicated staff. An associate pastor, fresh out of seminary, came on board last June. Steven Gregg has many gifts and much to offer.
Children are a priority at Saint James. It seems dangerous to walk down the halls because boys and girls are everywhere. I love a church that ministers to parents of young children and teenagers. Any church that wants to grow should issue this invitation to parents in the community: “Let us help you raise your children.” Lord knows, families in this society need help!
What else do
I like about the church? Let me explain this way. When my wife and I moved to
oldest son, Matt, was appointed to serve the
However, months ago Lester began talking to us about joining the staff at Saint James. We prayed about it, but were hesitant about accepting the offer because my knees had not healed. Even so, we felt the Spirit leading us to this church.
Then, five months and a week after my surgery, I turned a corner with my knees. After much pain, frustration, and even depression, my long wait for recovery was over. I could actually walk on both legs, without pain, for the first time since double-knee replacement in June.
weeks now, I have been filled with gratitude to God for answering the prayers
of so many dear friends. I am no longer the “Hematoma Poster Boy” of
The solution was elevating my leg higher than my heart, icing my knee for 15 minutes every two hours, and believing that eventually I would be all right. The “believing” part was more difficult than the rest.
During those days I kept trying to discover what God was teaching me. The lessons were obvious. Most of all, he was teaching me patience. In addition, I heard him saying to me, “Son, I do not want you to ever again fail to notice and have compassion on your brothers and sisters who have physical handicaps.”
Believe me, my eyes have been opened, and my heart as well, as I have observed how many people endure physical handicaps daily. Some will never be able to walk on both legs, as I am now able to do. Those persons must never be without my compassion as long as I live. I remembered the story in Acts of the lame man, and how Peter and John “saw” him when they passed by. They first had to see him before they could minister to his need.
On a Sunday night in November, Lester invited us to attend a Celebration, an evening worship service at Saint James. He said that night he hoped to baptize 40 people. That enticed us. We had never before seen 40 people baptized in a single service.
That night the Praise Band led more than 500 people in stirring worship. The Praise Band ministers in two of three morning worship services. Lester opened the service by explaining that he knew of 39 people who wanted to be baptized, but hoping for 40, he said, “If the Lord leads you to come forward as that fortieth person, be sure to come.”
He began by
baptizing about 25 people by sprinkling, the mode most familiar to Methodists.
However, since a candidate for baptism in a
The worship service lasted two and a half hours. By the time it had ended, Lester had baptized 81 people! Some were older than I was. Others were middle-aged, young couples, and parents who were baptized along with their children.
As we were driving home, only ten miles away, my wife said, “Honey, I believe we have found the church where the Spirit is moving!” I agreed.
Come January, that is where we will be, trusting that the Spirit will continue moving in a wonderful church that has graciously offered to bring this old preacher out of retirement. Glory! + + + +