Joe was not happy with me.
For one thing, I had been using the New International Version of the Bible from the pulpit. There was more, though, with which Joe was upset. Sunday after Sunday he would find a way to corner me after the service to express his concern about something.
But each time Joe approached, Richard seemed to appear as well. Richard always had a disarming comment to say, satisfying Joe temporarily. After Joe moved on, Richard always gave me a word of encouragement and a nugget of wise advice.
Richard was just one of many lay leaders in that church who faithfully used their gifts to help me be a better pastor and advance the mission of the church they loved. I also think of Belinda, who rallied the congregation just when we needed a boost of camaraderie and enthusiasm.
Lay people are more than a workforce. They live as a kingdom force.
Mr. Berry helped us avoid an international incident with a congregation that was considering sharing our facility. In response to a misguided concern about the potential smell of an unfamiliar food in the fellowship hall, he asked the group, “If we were all in their church in their country, wouldn’t we want them to cook the food we like?” A few moments later, the motion to share our church building passed unanimously.
Then there’s June, who quietly tracked our numbers and handled the books. And Nettie, who transformed our piano and our voices into a sound worthy of worship.
The list goes on of those who faithfully ministered within and beyond the walls of that church.
It has been 30 years since these folks and so many others taught me the importance of a positive partnership between a pastor and church lay leaders. They helped both our church and me thrive.
That lesson is even more true today. Their generous partnership with me and the pastors who came before and have come since modeled more than just a church workforce. They lived as a kingdom force doing the transformative work of God in me as well as our church and our community.