When I was a senior in high school, I experienced what has traditionally been termed a "call to ministry." This call was not as specific as I would like, but I do remember the moment. I went to my pastor, and together we talked through what a call to ministry really means. I made the decision to pursue this call through vocational ministry public on Easter Sunday of my senior year in high school. This time in my life was an extremely important time, and I am thankful that God put a Pastor there who would help guide me through it.
This important spiritual decision was not the only decision my pastor guided me through. I was one of those kids who always felt like I was a disappointment to everyone around me, and most of all to God. I would sin, and Satan would beat me up like crazy. I would read my Bible more, pray more, memorize more scripture. Nothing seemed to help me overcome that sense that I was being tossed back and forth by the waves of fear and doubt. I remember as a young teenager going to my pastor's house a few blocks away from where we lived. We sat together on his couch, and he listened to me. I don't know that anyone had ever listened before like he listened. He heard my fear and my doubt. He heard my deep desire to please God and to be secure in my relationship with Christ. After he heard, he saw. He looked me in the eyes (not an easy feat since he was much taller than I was), and he told me that he saw a young man who was troubled and confused, but also a young man who loved Jesus. He told me that people didn't worry as much as I did about not being saved if the Holy Spirit wasn't working in their lives. Then, he gently reminded me how the Spirit works in a believer's life to grow him through a process of pruning. Often that pruning can be painful, but always that pruning is helpful. He reminded me of a verse that I have never forgotten even though doubt and fear have followed me into various times of my life. The verse was Romans 8:1, and I have repeated it often. "There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
I also learned about the importance of studying God's word from this man. We had a small church, and when we had a part time youth minister, he was mainly with us only on the weekends. Wednesday nights, then, were much different from Wednesday nights in youth groups today. We spent our Wednesday nights in prayer meeting and Bible study with the adults. We had notebooks and everything!!! For those who know me well, you can imagine that as I am writing those words, I am about to soil myself with excitement. I do love to study God's word, and truthfully that love for study really flourished under the leadership of my pastor during my teenage years. Paul's second letter to Timothy reminds us that "all scripture is God breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped for every good work." Bro. Paul (that's what we called him) took his role seriously as he used his gift to oversee the body of Christ by making sure that we were equipped with God's word for the work God called us to do. I wish that everyone had taken the study of the Word seriously. Perhaps he would have been with us longer to continue to guide that church into truth. You can probably imagine that the more the Word of God was lifted up and taught, the more Satan fought against this man of God and his family. Those in the church who are not followers of Christ always react negatively to studying God's word because God's word is a two edged sword, able to penetrate to the very depths of our being. I am sorry for those who failed to see that our pastor was loving us through teaching and instead looked for ways to hinder everything he was called to do.
Love for the Word of God started in my life as a young child as my mom made sure that she read Bible stories to me and as I learned verses through Bible Drills. The Word really came alive when Brother Paul Lloyd and his family came to the small church in our small town and demonstrated the integrity of which the apostle wrote in Titus 2:7-9. Paul wrote to Titus, "Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us."
My prayer today in this last week of Pastor Appreciation Month is that Brother Paul Lloyd and his family know that God has used him in my life and ultimately in the lives of many others he may never even meet. Bro. Paul, your influence means more than you will ever know.