Today I am reflecting on the years I have spent in ministry and counting it a blessing to be considered a friend to so many. I’m celebrating four years serving in my current ministry context and nearly fifteen years in ministry all together (counting the near eleven years I spent with my first church). Recently I was listening to a Tim Keller Podcast in which he made a statement that pastors have a unique privilege and responsibility to be a friend to those to whom they minister and as such they often make friends with people who given ordinary circumstances they would never be friends with…
I find this to be true in my own life. I have the awesome opportunity to walk with people of all walks of life through some of life’s most painful and sacred moments.
There have been moments when we were all scared or saddened by life’s events. I have been in the room when we got the news of cancer. I’ve done my share of funerals and hugged the necks and held the hands of the grieving. More than enough times I’ve been called up late to the hospital when their has been an accident. Too often I’ve held a broken infants in my hands. I’ve seen the tragedies of life and walked with families through the worst parts. I have been one of the few who were ever welcomed into the world of the hurting and I have found that you don’t walk through the valley without developing some kind of kinship.
There have also been moments of joy beyond expression. I’ve held hands and plunged you beneath the water and pulled you back to the surface in baptism based upon your confession of Christ. I’ve been in the room when they said the cancer is in remission. I’ve held healthy newborns and helped sneak an air-horn into graduation ceremonies. I generally get the best seat in the house when it comes to weddings and among other things I get to say, “you may now kiss the bride.” I’ve shared in some of the happiest moments that life has to offer and found that you don’t reach the summit of the mountain without developing a friendship along the way.
Beyond sharing these moments with you I have prayed with you and for you. I have poured myself out and asked God to allow me to pour some more. To this end I spent years of my life studying His word so that I might be a competent expositor, leader, administrator, communicator, teacher, counselor and ultimately a better friend. I have begged God that I would clearly speak the truth even when you might not count me as a friend because of it. Because my greatest desire for you is to present you complete to Christ.
I’d be a fool to think that friendship is a one-way street. Through the years as you have made me a part of your family and welcomed me into your homes. I have been blessed beyond measure by your friendship. I have learned valuable lessons. I have eaten vegetables from your garden, dear meat from your freezer and mullet from your cast net. Along the way I confided some of my own fears and insecurities. You have loved me, been to my wedding, held my children, and hugged me and celebrated my birthdays (though sometimes I would like it to pass in obscurity) and anniversaries. Thank you for being a faithful friend to me and counting this pastor as your friend.