Lamar and I went for a walk in the woods near our home this weekend. The trees, the briars, the woodland blooms, the nearby pastures and a single red barn reminded me of who I really am, a child of God, created to enjoy His world and to be a witness for him. Whenever something weighs on my soul walks in the woods or on a trail lighten my burden and relieve that small depression that has occasionally been a part of me for as long as I can remember.
So we walked over rocks, though briars and bushes, and around wet springs. But what I really needed at the moment were words I could use to talk about Dr. Jan Davis, soon to be our new senior pastor. Not about her biography. Not about her preaching style. I wanted to talk about what we, the members of Central, could do to make her feel at home, encourage her right away, support her. What should be our first steps with her? I had a list I found called 50 Ways to Welcome Your New Pastor. It’s a good list and you can find it at churchleadership.com. But it is about as spiritually inspiring to read as my to do list on Monday morning—essentials but not particularly uplifting.
These are the words that eventually kept roaming around in my head, common Christian words, both essential and uplifting. But how could I relate them to a blog about first steps with her? Love, Faith, Hope. Yes, we should love her. Not a doubt in my mind Central will love her. I have met her, talked with her, and am already inspired by her. We will love her for who she is, a woman of God, sent by God, to do the work of God.
We will pray for her, daily. We will welcome and encourage her in meaningful ways, a kind word, a card, a smile–an invitation to her to any social events held by Sunday school classes or other groups in the early months. We will invite her husband, Deames, to Sunday school and other appropriate small groups. And we will introduce ourselves repeatedly! Imagine the challenge of getting to know so many people in a church the size of Central! We will wear our nametags if we have them. Central’s staff and the Staff, Parish, Relations Committee will work on ways to make Dr. Davis and her family at home in Fayetteville and in Central United Methodist Church.
We will have faith that God’s will is being done. We will have hope for a bright and powerful future. But we must also keep in mind being a pastor is one of the four hardest jobs in America (including-and not in any particular order- President of the United States, a university president, and CEO of a hospital).
There may be an occasional rock, bush, or wet spring to overcome at Central. But as Dr. Davis says, “I am excited to put on my hiking shoes and get walking to new places and new heights with our congregation…we will walk with Jesus Christ as he guides us to new ministries, step into new friendships and walk in new joy-filled life-giving relationships.”
The most important first steps with our new senior pastor then, indeed for all of our pastors, include “prayer for guidance, protection, healthy friends, their marriage and family. Pray for inspiration, anointing, the leadership team, unity and clarity.” We will protect our pastors from gossip and criticism. And we must encourage them all. We must and will remember that when we seek help from our pastors we should also seek to help them. They can be weary, frustrated, and disappointed. They are indeed, fragile human beings just as we are, needing love, faith, and hope. And when we give them these things, when we begin our first steps with love, faith, and hope with our new senior pastor, we will be repaid many times over.
Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Let us begin our first step with love. Faith and hope will most certainly follow.
Central’s Lay Leader