Web editor’s note: We are deeply saddened to announce that Rev. H.B. London Jr. passed away on Tuesday morning, October 16, 2018, after a long battle with cancer. He died in his home in California surrounded by his loved ones. We encourage you to pray for his wife, Beverley, and their entire family.
Before I get into the topic I want to address this month, let me add my congratulations, gratitude, and affirmation to each of you for all that you do to serve our Lord and lead His people. This is Clergy Appreciation Month and I do hope you have been recognized well by those whom you love and lead and for whom you sacrifice regularly. I root for you and I am in your corner! Stay faithful to your calling!
As I think about my nearly 40 years as a pastor, I love to embrace the “great cloud of witnesses” who have passed through our sanctuary doors over the years of our churches’ existence. As I reminisce, I vividly remember those in my congregations who have passed on to their heavenly reward, who were instrumental in both my success as a pastor and the life of our fellowship.
Through good times and bad, they persevered. Pastors would come and go, but they would remain faithful to the local church. They would pray, sacrificially give of their income, hold multiple jobs of service, take leadership assignments, and always remain hopeful. I smile as I picture that cloud of witnesses in my mind — with names too numerous to mention.
Every one of you has in your ministry history the names of those who, like the one our Lord was searching for in Ezekiel, would “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30, KJV). Talk about them! Honor them! Validate them! Where would your congregation be today had it not have been for those faithful men and women who never gave up? By faith they lived, and in faith they died. And your church is richer for it.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Now, one reason these saints come to mind is because each of them was blessed by our Lord with talents and gifts. Some could sing. Some could play an instrument. Some could teach. Some provided business acumen. Some were skilled at maintenance. Many could pray in a special, humble, and sincere way, making their requests known unto the Lord.
I often think about you and your congregation. How many in your current flock simply sit and listen? They may worship, but how many of them ever have a chance to use their gifts to bless your congregation or community in His name? How many are allowed to be a part of your church’s cloud of witnesses? I wonder how many of your people are ever asked to pray, to sing, to read Scripture, to testify, to bless the Lord? There are so many diamonds in the rough. In my years in ministry, I made that discovery. Churches need to hear new voices. Are new voices being heard in your church?
“But, in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. … But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:18-22, 24-25).
That is God’s design for His church. So, what happens when anyone in your congregation is not encouraged or not allowed to use the gifts God has given? They feel stagnant. They become dissatisfied. They have a sense of being unneeded. They may even no longer believe they are welcome and wanted — and they react accordingly.
How do you respond to those in your church family who slip out the back door unnoticed? Those who don’t get involved? Those who stay away for one reason or another? Suggestion: take a few minutes each week and look over your church rolls. If names of people you haven’t seen for a while pop up, just pick up the phone and call them. Tell them they have been missed, that they came to your mind and you just wanted to see how they were doing. If you can’t call, then drop them a note just to let them know they are important to you. Personal attention from the pastor or any staff member will be very instrumental in helping people know they are loved and valued.
And, while we’re on the subject, what about the disaffected teens in your congregation? Kids who don’t fit in, who may be troubled? There are thousands of them in the churches of our nation — young people who act out, stand back, live with uncontrolled anger, and hunger for someone to accept them, talk to them, value them. All too often, it is the brightest, strongest, and prettiest who get the attention, while the others go home feeling emptiness.
I challenge you, my colleague, to listen to their cries. Be aware of the tell-tale signs. Risk being rejected, if you must, to befriend them. You, because of Christ, may be their only hope! Don’t miss the opportunity to show His love to those who hurt — whether adults or teens — in your congregation.
“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” ’ ” (Luke 15:3-6).