Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
June 10, 2018
A well-deserved tribute
What fun it was last Sunday to be back in Opelika! Dean and I spent 13 of the best years of our lives in that lovely town where I had the honor of serving as one of the pastors of Trinity United Methodist Church.
Senior Pastor Bill Kierce invited us share the day spent honoring Pastor Earl Ballard. Earl is retiring after serving Trinity for 38 years. That is a remarkable tenure of service for a Methodist preacher. But even more remarkable is the difference Earl has made in the lives of hundreds of people during those years of ministry. Little wonder the church was packed with people who wanted to honor a man who loved them and in whom the love of Christ shone brightly.
As I embraced dozens of old friends, I thought about how so many of them had shared my burdens while I was their pastor. And how the Lord had helped me to share some of their burdens. We had cared about one another while “doing the Lord’s work” and in so doing had found the grace to face the common issues of life. And all the while, the Lord was growing His church.
The church has many faces but at its best the church is a fellowship of burden bearers. Saint Paul says in one of his letters that when we bear one another’s burdens we “fulfill the law of Christ.” When the bottom falls out, we need each other. And sooner or later every one of us has burdens that are too heavy to carry alone.
Tears filled my eyes Sunday as I thought of many friends who walk with us no more. But their faces remain in my heart and I thanked the Lord for blessing me with their love and friendship. As I looked into so many smiling faces, it dawned on me how precious are my memories of this remarkable church family. These are people who take seriously the privilege of bearing one another’s burdens.
Pastor Jimmy Allen and his wife Anita also came up from Pace, Florida to help with the celebration. Earl and I worked together at Trinity for several years and then, the Lord in his kindness sent Jimmy to join our team. I dare say no three men ever had more fun serving the Lord than the three of us. We were partners in the service of the King. Those were seven of greatest years of my life because the three of us were a team and we had the privilege of serving one of the finest congregations God ever put together.
I am so thankful that the Lord let me live to help the Trinity family celebrate the extraordinary ministry of a man who has spent most of his adult life bearing the burdens of others in Opelika. And he guided many to fall in love with Jesus and become his disciples. Earl would quickly acknowledge, of course, that his strength to do anything has come from the Christ who is the Lord of his life.
Trinity is an exceptional church. The congregation has been blessed with leaders who are always reaching for excellence. Sunday they did it again by paying a well-deserved tribute to Earl and Susan Ballard. My brothers and sisters in Christ, I salute you! + + +