My father recently retired after 36 years as pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle. Most readers of this column will have never heard of him: he wrote no books or articles, he had no television ministry, he offered no seminars on effective church leadership, and he rarely spoke in other congregations.

What John McCullough did was faithfully care for those entrusted to him. His shepherding evolved through the years as the flock steadily grew from a small cluster of Norwegian fishing families into a moderately large congregation. He went from being a “one-man show” (his duties included being custodian, bus driver, and secretary) to being responsible for a staff of associate pastors and assorted professionals. An extraordinary outreach to college and university students gave the church a youthful, energetic spirit.

What remained constant through the years were Dad’s strong preaching and sensitive pastoring. He loved the pulpit, surrendering himself to its agonies and ecstasies, faithfully speaking God’s Word into the messy business of everyday life. Even more, he loved the people, praying and laughing and crying with them; my adolescence was embarrassed by his frequent public tears, but my middle age now sees them as watery witnesses to a compassionate heart.

He had his detractors, as any pastor does. Every “evangelical” wind blew in criticism and blew out the discontented: there were those who wanted him to be more charismatic, or more prophetic about the end times, or more oriented toward “Body Life,” or more of a possibility thinker, or more aggressive against demons, or more seeker-sensitive. This sometimes hurt his feelings; and he was a little confused when those who had left would call, years later, in need of a ...

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