Last Sunday, I was doing an introduction for a friend who was bringing the message at Kfirst. Jp Dorsey brought an outstanding word to our congregation that I have been chewing on ever since the weekend. If you were not able to join us, check it out here.
In my intro for Jp, there was a statement that I shared that far too many pastors believe. It was brought up all too often when in bible college and throughout my first position:
Ministry is a lonely place.
Quite often, I revisit that statement to revise it to say, “Ministry can be a lonely place.” Even though there’s some aspect of truth to the original saying, it comes off to ministers as a “sentence” to be imprisoned by instead of a warning of the danger of isolation.
And when I think about these 21 years of ministry, I recognize, first, I am here because of Jesus. For, apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). And to him, “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).
But I also see that I am still here because of community. I believe I’m still in pastoral ministry, not because of a resolve I posses, but because of the men and women who refused to allow me to do this ministry thing alone. I’m here because of those who stood by me in my pain, put up with my drama, showed patience with my frustrations, challenged me in my thinking, encouraged me in my worst days, offered a place to explore creativity, gave me wisdom through decisions, and offered me a place to find my smile and to laugh.
And Leon Beaudin has been one of those people.
I may be from the Metro Detroit area, but Midland became “home.” I was hired as the Youth Pastor of CCC in 2002, but inside, I was broken and hurting; confused and frustrated. Midland for most is simply a nice city to live. For me, it was a city of refuge. Why? I found a renewed passion for Jesus, my calling, and the mission of the Church. God brought people along side of me. And Leon was a huge part of that.
My friend is bringing an era of 30 years of ministry at CCC to a close. And my heart is not to just honor him but to challenge others to find community like what I found in Leon.
Share a cup.
I miss hearing those immortal words down the office hallway, “Hey Youth Boy, do you want some coffee?” Really, this is how it all began. He shared a cup of coffee. I can’t say I was a huge coffee drinker in that day, but I was willing to connect to the dude who sat at the organ. There is such depth to an uncomplicated action like an invitation like that. Coffee may not seem like much, but for someone who was starving for relational connections, it meant everything. A meeting at the coffeepot (even though it was Folgers) opened my heart to one of my most valued friends.
Give a couch.
I remembered the first time I walked in his office and just plopped on his couch as if it was a therapy session (which it probably was). His reply was hilarious. “You do realize you’re not the first youth pastor to lay on that couch trying to figure things out?”
But I caught something in that statement (other than the fact that us Youth Pastors have lots of issues to work through). Not only was he approachable, but he was available. I’ve know those who were approachable but never available. Then there are others who are available, but not approachable. My friend Leon was both. I don’t think he’ll ever fully grasp how much value he poured into me through those 7 years especially when the first contact came about Kalamazoo. I cannot imagine what that journey would have looked like without his wisdom and perspective.
Open up a table.
His invitation to eat, whether it was a restaurant or his home, was a place to find my smile. Leon understood the value of laughter and joy. The table was a place to share stories and memories. I remember when he picked up my…er…his bulldog Baxter. Leon invited my family over for dinner so that Baxter could get used to children.
The atmosphere did more than make us crave having our own pet, it breathed joy into our souls. I’m convinced that most of our pastors don’t necessarily need counsel as much as we need to laugh. And if we can recapture our joy, perhaps we can re-envision healthier ministry.
In Luke 19, Jesus approached a very socially lonely man. Zacchaeus felt like an outsider to the people around him (for good reason). He really had nobody around him willing to give him the time of day. He knew of God. He also knew that his vocation made him to be very much an outsider to everyone. Jesus’ simple action of stopping, noticing, and offering time opened up Zacchaeus’ heart to be impacted by the Kingdom of God.
To every person reading this, I honor my friend, and in doing do, honor the One he represents. As scripture says, “Give honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). And it behoves me to not just tell you about the blessing he’s been to me but to challenge you in two ways:
- Put your faith in Jesus and not people.
- People are human and prone to mistakes. When we seek in people what we should be seeking in God, we place demands upon them they are not equipped to provide.
- Be a friend. Be community for others.
- It’s not done for the “thanks” you get but for the glory God receives. Your initiating connection and authentic friendship can bridge a gap over someone’s pain and into their heart.
- Find a friend. Get community in your life.
- There is initiative on your part to reach back and/or ask people. Be in position to engage with others. Be willing to risk some relationship knowing that it may or may not work out. I’ve had those that we didn’t quite “connect.” That’s fine. Just don’t stop trying.
Leon, apart from all of the jokes and jabs we’ve thrown each other over the past 17 years, there lies a depth of love and appreciation for you in the Barringer’s hearts. You’re an amazing man of God and Jesus shines amazingly through you.
Love you bro. And there’s aways a cup of coffee waiting for you in Kalamazoo.
Thanks for letting me ramble…