By Joe McKeever
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
The greatest resource for anyone in the ministry–other than the obvious Resource of the Holy Spirit Himself, of course–is not the internet, not one’s seminary, and not the public library. It’s not your denomination, and for those of us in the SBC, it’s not Lifeway Christian Resources.
Those are all good, and we recommend them highly. But they’re not the nearest and most reliable source of help for pastors.
It’s your brother.
The pastors in your area–shepherds of the Lord’s flocks just as you are–do the same work as you, struggle with the same issues, wrestle with the same temptations and enjoy the same rewards. You have more in common with the pastors in your town than with anyone else on the face of the earth.
The enemies of all that is good and righteous–the world, the flesh, and the devil, that unholy trinity–are forever at work driving a wedge between you and them.
(Note: For the occasional woman pastor who writes to inquire about my masculine frame of reference, please forgive what may appear to be a slight. I do not mean it as such. God bless you in your labors for the kingdom.)
Pastors tend to be loners. And nothing about that is good.
And, as a result of this tendency of pastors to be loners…
–They become suspicious of one another.
–They become competitors with each other.
–They pull back from one another.
–In so doing, they deprive themselves of companionship with someone who understands, deny themselves access to a fountain of great ideas, and miss out on the vast experience of their neighboring pastors.
–The result of that is that they never become as strong or as successful as they could have otherwise.
Let me illustrate the point with stories of a couple of my friends….
As a new trustee of our New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Don Davidson and wife Audrey had arrived in town early and were worshiping with us that Sunday in, I believe, 1996. We struck it off that day and went to lunch together. At the time he was serving Mt. Hermon Baptist Church outside Danville, Virginia (he now serves the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia). He’s a delightful friend whom I admire for a hundred reasons.
Just after we met, Don put me on the mailing list for his weekly one-page “Fax of Life.” This devotional was sent out to a hundred or so of his Danville folks who posted it on office bulletin boards and passed it around. Since I love to write and our minister of education had just installed a computer in my office, I took Don’s idea and began producing a page we called “A Matter of Fax.” That soon morphed into an email article, which in turn transitioned into this website which now possesses over 2,000 articles, almost all directed toward pastors and other church leaders..
It all started with an idea picked up from a brother in the ministry.
James Richardson was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Leland, Mississippi, exactly 7 miles from Greenville, where I was trying to serve my first church following seminary. I’m not sure at what point he and I first became friends, but the relationship lasted until his death over 30 years later.
When Margaret and I needed a marriage counselor and none was available within a hundred mile range, we went to James. When I began leading an area-wide evangelistic crusade, James’ counsel was invaluable to keep me on course. When the Lord was ready to move me to another church, it was James’ recommendation He used to achieve it. Some years later, when a vacancy on our denomination’s International Mission Board trustees opened, James put my name in the mix. As a result, my life was broadened, my vision was enlarged, and the opportunities to serve God multiplied. (Within a year, I traveled to Singapore and worked with the missionaries to produce a full-length full-color comic book presenting the gospel to the teens of that Asian country.)
And all that happened because the Lord bonded James Richardson and me. Then, sometime in the early 1980′s, I nominated James as the president of the MIssissippi Baptist Convention, a position he won easily. More than one friend said later, “Had I known he would accept it, I’d have nominated him years ago!”
It turns out I was not the only younger preacher who was blessed by James Richardson.
What more can I say? For time would fail me to tell of…. (I’m channeling Hebrews 11:32 here). There are so many more friends who have left their marks on my life and ministry. I am forever indebted to Joel Davis, Chet Griffin, David Crosby, Jim and Darlene Graham, Jack and Marian Smith, Bill Hardy, Bryan Harris, Wilson Henderson, Ken Gabrielse, and….
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.