A good friend of mine—we’ll call him Steve—graduated from seminary 40 years ago. He pastored at a church in Colorado for four years, then left the ministry, never to pastor again. Instead he went into secular work. While he enjoyed that career, I’ve often wondered what might have been. This man is a genius and is a tremendous student of the Word of God and a tremendous Bible teacher.
The other day Sharon and I were visiting with his wife—whom we’ll call Sally—and we got what Paul Harvey used to call the rest of the story.
Steve went alone to pastor that church in Colorado. Six months later Sally joined him when they were married. Sally vividly remembers that first year. They were living in a condo owned by one of the church leaders. He complained that Steve and Sally were using too much electricity to heat their condo. But this was Colorado in the winter and the condo did not have a heating stove or super insulation. This did not set well with Steve and Sally.
The young couple had to leave that condo because the owner decided to sell it.
During their four years there they lived in four different places. They were moved hither and yon in order to save the church (or the leaders) some money. But all this moving was hard on the young couple.
At the end of four years the elders finally drove Steve away. I didn’t ask if they told him he had to go or just made things so uncomfortable that he chose to leave. But Sally said that she was pregnant at the time with their first child and here they were moving from Colorado back to Texas with no job for either of them.
Sally said that one of the elders who did not like what the others were doing said to the other elders, “You’ve set this young man’s ministry back at least ten years.”
As I heard the story I couldn’t help but think about the Judgment Seat of Christ (the Bema). The elders who undermined Steve’s ministry and who drove him from the pastorate will have a lot to answer for at the Bema. While Steve has served Christ faithfully his whole life, who knows what he might have done if that first church had not treated him so shabbily.
I know many stories just like this one.
We all need to keep the big picture in mind. Pleasing the Lord is more important than saving ten or twenty dollars a month on the utility bills. Finding a stable home for a young pastor and his wife is just as important as it would be for a young doctor or lawyer or anchor man. If a person’s ministry is important, then those who oversee him are responsible to see to it that they remove hindrances. They certainly should not put hindrances in his path.
Lord, please help us all to live in light of the Bema. May we long to hear You say, “Well done, good servant.”