That’s what I wanted to say to my pastor. After sitting in my chair Sunday after Sunday over the past year, I’ve been enriched and encouraged by his expository preaching. I have also been impressed with his actions as a leader. Right next to my sermon notes, I found myself making a bullet list of these actions on a blue Post-it. Given his line of work, I know that attacks and criticism come frequently, but I wanted him to know that there is a lot he gets right—and people like me notice.
I love how he openly shares with the congregation about the work God is doing in his heart to strengthen or encourage him, to help in his times of weakness, and to correct him when he loses his way. The stories remind us all that he is human, a fellow traveler on the faith journey. They also communicate two important life lessons for us: that God uses imperfect people and we are all in desperate need of God’s power, love, and grace. So we nod our heads, we laugh, and we cry together.
He regularly takes time to pray for other pastors by name, and the local congregations they shepherd across the city. This tells me that he understands the importance of unity in diversity within the body of Christ. He has his eyes focused on advancing the kingdom of God through his commitment to the universal church. We are not here to build our own kingdoms or fight turf wars. That’s the behavior of gangs who are enemies of each other, and reflects the ways of this world.
He is not afraid to say when he is wrong. Yes, even from the pulpit. His public confessions are sincere. On more than once occasion he has repented then humbly asking for our forgiveness. God knows, even with our best efforts, we don’t always get it right.
My pastor is funny. Our church is called to focus on making disciples who live out the gospel crossing racial and economic lines. When living in a society where racial tensions have reached national attention over this past year, I understand the spiritual and emotional weight of loving one’s neighbor, humbly and graciously confronting conflict, and pursuing justice. Without the discipline of celebration, authentic relationships, or a hearty laugh, we can easily lose ourselves in this work. Humor provides much-needed levity. He models this for us, and we practice.
I’ve looked at this sticky note for many months with the intention of writing a letter of thanks to my teaching pastor, Bill Goans. It continued to sit on my desk with several other unfinished projects not because I did not have the words, but rather because I wanted to write a beautiful handwritten letter. I would need a lot of time because my handwriting is so poor. It is much easier for me to type, but that felt so impersonal, so store-bought. This delay made me think of all the people sitting in their chairs on Sunday mornings listening to the words of a pastor, who might want to say thanks, but forget to do so.
So as the year concludes, I would like to say to my pastor and to all of the pastors serving the people of God and shepherding the flock, “Thank you.”
From the heart of one minister to another, I thank you for continuing in prayer even when it feels like God has forgotten or is not listening. Thank you for not giving up when times got hard. Thanks for not defending your case when your name was dragged through the mud or folks try to destroy your reputation.
Thank you for continuing to visit or care on the Mondays or Fridays that you had “off.” Thank you for being a mother or father to so many. Thanks for being diligent to sit still, listen to God, and rightfully divide his Word of truth. Thanks for all the messages you wrote that did not get an “Amen,” receive blog post hits, or social media likes.
Thanks for giving so much more than you take. Thanks for all of your internal wrestling, and for the good you do in your private moments. Thanks for your leadership, your confessions, and yes, your repentance. Thanks for your surrender. God knows what beautiful feet you have to carry the Good News. Be encouraged as you faithfully continue in the call. Finally, thanks for simply being you.
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a writer, inspirational speaker, leadership and mentoring trainer, and human trafficking advocate. Connect with Natasha through her official website, blog, Facebook, or Twitter.