During the 1970’s, I was pastor of a wonderful young church. It was only few years old. Begun as a mission of a fine mother church, it quickly outgrew its mission status. The membership was composed of young families with lots of young children. It was an ideal opportunity for an energetic young pastor like me.
However, I quickly realized we had a problem. I could not accommodate all the pastoral expectations of the congregation. Regularly, members would give me names of grandparents, neighbors or extended family they wanted me to visit and remember in prayer. The needs were legitimate and the concern was fitting; but there simply were not enough hours in the day or week to meet all the requests.
I discussed the problem with some of my colleagues. They advised, “It’s a good problem.” Duh! I had a better response to my concern from the leadership of the church. They said, “We need more staff.”
Yes, but ... there simply was not enough room in the budget to add staff. The church had debt. One senior citizen told me on my first Sunday, “Your grandchildren will be paying for this building.” (She was wrong.) Increasing giving was unlikely. Nevertheless, I wanted to minister to this growing need.
In the pastor’s column for our church bulletin, I wrote about a ministry incident. A church member sent it to the local newspaper, which ran it and then asked me to continue each week. When someone wrote to me saying a column had blessed them and they passed it on to others, I realized it was at least a partial answer to my ministering needs. I have continued the column for over 40 years.
Later, when I was called to another church and had more staff, I began to print my weekly messages and send them to a group of pastors and friends. Often, I received words of appreciation and thanks. Once, when I met a pastor, he greeted me warmly and invited me to come into his office to visit. There he had a stash of sermons I had prepared. A neighbor lady had been receiving them for years and passing them on to him.
The written word is powerful. The spoken word is easily forgotten, but the written word lingers. The earliest records of God’s work on earth were surely reported orally — oral tradition. In time, someone advised, “We need to write this down.” As a result, you and I have God’s message, the Bible. Even Jesus, the master teacher, often said, “It is written.”
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column titled “The Shepherd Calls.”