The cold February drizzle of the Pacific Northwest matched perfectly the atmosphere inside the church building. Between worship services, underneath a gray skylight, Jim pulled me aside as I was rushing by him. A former collegiate wrestler who stood six-three, Jim was now a banker, the father of six, a gentle man.
"May I ask you a question?" he asked politely.
"Certainly," I responded, equally polite, fidgeting at having been slowed down.
"Do you love us?" came his unexpected query.
Suddenly I fidgeted for a different reason. What kind of question is that? I thought, before stammering back, "Why, of course I do. Why do you ask?"
"We can't tell. We can't tell with any of you pastors. You are so busy, it seems as if we are on our own."
I don't remember the rest of the conversation. I don't remember the sermon that day. But I will never forget the haunting question "Do you love us?"
He was right to ask. My job had not been much fun lately. I was the associate pastor, watching the senior pastor become ...1