VITALITY IN THE CLOSING DARKNESS
When everything is going well in a pastor's life, spiritual vitality isn't immediately obvious. We expect joy in a leader whose family and ministry are healthy. It's when circumstances start to disintegrate that character becomes most visible. As Paul, suffering from a painful affliction, learned from the Lord, "My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely" (2 Cor. 12:9, Phillips).
One pastor who has shown vitality in weakness is Bob Davis. Sixteen years ago he came to Old Cutler Presbyterian Church, a splintered, 46-member congregation in Miami, and over time he helped it become the largest Protestant church in the city. But then he began to notice something was wrong-dreadfully wrong-with his mind.
Bob's story is not the usual LEADERSHIP article. But we think it helps demonstrate the grace of Christ released within a minister who trusts him.
Bob had already preached twice this Christmas Eve, but he didn't feel tired; in fact, he was getting stronger. As he sat in the heavy wood chair and looked out past the pulpit, where he would soon preach a third time, he felt a rush of joy. The candles flickered light off the deep-brown paneled walls, and as the children sang in their high soprano voices, it felt as if the sanctuary had been transformed into King Arthur's Camelot.
Bob's mind drifted back to his first Christmas Eve service at Old Cutler. He wasn't even pastor then, just filling in. In October his predecessor had called the Christian school where Bob was an administrator. "The Session and church don't know this," he'd told Bob, "but my wife and children have already left, and I'm leaving right now. If you're not there Sunday, there's not going to be anyone. Frankly, I don't care." The last thing Bob wanted was to take a small, fractured mission that was ready to sell its building to pay off debts. He had served four pastorates and was nearing forty, and he was ready for a larger, smoother ship. He was bored, though, with school administration-figuring prices of half-pint boxes of milk and how to keep bus drivers content. Maybe God was calling him to a new assignment.
O Lord, he prayed, scanning the full sanctuary, Thanks for what you've done. I never could get an evangelism program going here, and yet look at the people you've brought to us. As Bob saw person after person who had come to Christ through Old Cutler, his irrepressible forward-looking nature kicked in. Lord, I pray we can double in size in the next five years and truly be a light for you here in dark Miami.
That week Bob again talked with the consultants who were helping the church chart a five-year plan for growth. It was hard to tell who was more excited about the church's possibilities. For almost a year now, they had wrestled with the obstacles to their growth, a major one being the Dade County regulation that any new church construction be on at least five acres. Since virtually no five-acre parcels were available (or affordable), ...