Sunday October 13 is Pastor Appreciation Day. This blog is from the book — Pause for Pastors: Finding Still Waters in the Storm of Ministry
Sometimes we follow those who don’t know they are leading.
That’s how it was for me with Brother Cloud.
At first, he watched, he listened, he thought, but said very little as I explained to him our plans to plant a new church in his area. Since denominational leaders had informed me about him living in that subdivision, they suggested that we meet.
I was a young, inexperienced, confident man moving from a youth pastor role to planting a new church as the pastor; he had been retired for over a decade from pastoring and evangelizing. I had long hair; he didn’t, and he didn’t like mine. I had on my jeans; he wore his suit coat.
We both had Bibles, though. I wanted to read a passage to explain my case for starting a church, so I opened my NIV as Brother Cloud opened his King James Version. I wasn’t sure if things were getting off to a good start. I talked. He listened, making brief comments. He voiced his views, staring. The conversation covered all the subjects I thought might be a little controversial. Musical styles, worship length, preaching method, doctrinal beliefs, and the winning of souls in each service. We did not have the same views on many of the topics, but a few times we spoke the same language. We laughed together. We gossiped about an awesome God together. We prayed together.
Brother Cloud began to stop asking questions. He told me his story. Camp meetings and revivals that lasted for weeks. Poor people serving him all the food they had. Raising children as a traveling preacher. The songs, the shouts, the prayers, the anointing. I felt like Brother Cloud had just taken me there. I heard the excitement and felt the desire in his heart to continue preaching.
Though health and age had caused his career to hit pause, a calling from God seemed to still be there. Even at his recliner as he spoke to a long-haired young man hoping to succeed as a pastor, a fire continued to burn. He told me he would be okay with us starting a church in his area.
His wife had been silent the whole time, just cooking in the kitchen and nodding her head a little; he told me we could start the first home group as a prayer meeting in their house. Brother Cloud—a name he identified himself as—called me pastor—a title I never liked having. When I asked him to just call me Chris, he said, “Not if you pastor my church.”
Before Brother Cloud entered the heaven he had preached about for most of his life, he spent a few years attending the church of a young preacher who never used his preferred version of Scripture. We continued laughing together and praying together. In church services, in small groups, and often just the two of us. He fussed at me sometimes when I changed too many of the old traditions. But we always laughed and hugged and prayed.
What positive did Brother Cloud see in a modern attempt at proclaiming ancient Truth? After years of seeing his family drift away from church attendance, he saw them listening to the NIV preacher with long hair. He saw his family hosting home groups and singing and acting in drama. The styles were new to Brother Cloud and his wife, but they also helped his prayers be answered.
I remember when he told me what he wanted said at his funeral. He wanted hymns sung and a certain version of the Bible read for the Twenty-Third Psalm. I listened to him. I pray I continue listening to what he said to me so many years ago.
And, when I am a Brother Maxwell listening to wild dreams of an emerging preacher boy, I hope I fuss and laugh and eat and pray just like Brother Cloud. I hope I accept the change and the person who brings them.
I hope to lead by following his example.