As I write this, I’m still basking in the glow of “Pastor Appreciation Month.” In recent weeks, many of you have made a special effort to speak with me or to send an encouraging note; and then, of course, the congregation as a whole has blessed my family and me with a generous gift certificate to one of our favorite local restaurants. I do want to make sure that I let you know how grateful I am for these kind expressions, but I want to rush to add that I’m thankful for far more than these most recent demonstrations of support. Ever since my arrival in Mount Airy (and more truthfully, ever since my first contact with the congregation’s search team), members of the Calvary Baptist family have been showering me with warm words and offers of practical assistance. I feel a little like the apostle Paul must have felt when he wrote, “I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received the gifts you sent” (Philippians 4:18).
Of course, as wonderful as all this appreciation is, I do hope you know that it’s not the kind of response that I’m really seeking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be appreciated for the work I do. I’m sure that just about all of us would feel the same. But what I truly desire—the ‘best thanks’ I can ever receive—is for you to open your hearts and lives even more fully to God. If you’ll allow me to paraphrase one of my favorite passages of scripture: “To obey is better than sacrifice…and to listen is better than the fat of rams (or the giving of generous gift certificates)” (1 Samuel 15:22, with apologies for unauthorized textual additions). The ultimate appreciation that this pastor seeks (and in the end, the appreciation that I believe God seeks) is that we would seek God eagerly, love Him whole-heartedly, and serve Him passionately through our church and in our daily lives. That’s challenging, of course, because all of us have so many demands pressing in upon our time and energy. But this is what being a “Christ-centered, caring church” is all about: placing Jesus at the heart of all we do so that in all we do – God get’s the glory.
There’s a Hallmark card I send from time-to-time. The front of the card declares plainly, “This is a Thank-You Note.” Inside, the card reads, “Please don’t send me a note thanking me for this note, or I shall be forced to send you a thank-you note thanking you for the note thanking me for the note.” That fits (in a mildly-amusing and appropriate way), since right now we find ourselves caught up in a circle of mutual appreciation. But I pray that our shared gratitude will now find even greater expression in lives that overflow with enthusiasm for God’s work among us.
Thanks to you all!