A Pastor to Pastors
I recently had the privilege of attending a ministerial convention in which H. B. London Jr. was the principal speaker. I found it a rewarding privilege to be there. H. B. London is vice president of Ministry Outreach/Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family. Previously he was a pastor in Oregon and California for thirty-one years and was for a time Dr. James Dobson’s pastor. I understand he is also Dr. Dobson’s cousin. His job with Focus on the Family is “to serve as a liaison to pastors and churches – a kind of ‘pastor to pastors.’” It was in this capacity that he was ministering at this convention.
I found virtually all of his ministry to be very worthwhile, but there were a few things that really struck a note with me that I would like to share with you. They are:
As for joy suckers he said that pastors spend forty to fifty percent of their time in negativity; meaning that they are contending with negativity from other people. He gave a few examples from his own experience.
In a church where he was pastor his study was located across an open courtyard from the sanctuary. One Sunday morning he left his study exuberant about his message he was about to preach. He left his study and started across this open area to go to the sanctuary for the worship service. Before reaching the sanctuary he was confronted by a lady who pointed out to him that grass was growing through the cracks in the sidewalk in front of the church. She wanted to know what he was going to do about it. He was then confronted by another fine lady complaining about the type of songs they were singing and that they were not using nearly enough of the old hymns. All of this was, of course, an attack on his enthusiasm for the morning service; a downer.
My son, Stephen, as part of his ministerial studies, was required to contact experienced pastors and ask them appointed questions. In response to one of these questions a successful pastor and former successful evangelist told him that he endeavored to stay away from people that tend to pull him down. As leaders we cannot pull people up if we are down ourselves.
As for flexibility, he told that he was married when he was twenty years of age and his bride nineteen; too young he said. Three years later at age twenty-three he had finished college and was about to be ordained in the Church of the Nazarene. Prior to the ceremony the District Superintendent told him to remove his wedding band. He evidently did so but then began to tell the DS that he loved his wife, was devoted to her and no other, and didn’t want anybody to think otherwise, and that the wedding band was a very important symbol to him of his love and union to his wife. The District Superintendent then said, “If it means that much to you, put it back on.” HB said he was glad the DS was flexible enough to make this change in his thinking so quickly when the situation called for it. Surely God knows we could use a lot more of that in our Christian communities.
As for pastors being watchmen he told of Dr. Dobson coming to him and saying that pastors need to cry out against the sins of prominent people that our leading our young people astray. Evidently Dr. Dobson felt that today’s pastors are remiss in their duties in this regard and named three prominent young female entertainers which he felt were being very bad influences on our youth: Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton. Dr. London responded that many of these pastors were doing all that they could just to keep their heads above water and he didn’t feel that he should be too hard on them. He went on to say however that pastors need to be aware of the pitfalls in our society that confront their parishioners and warn them of them. He said we need to name sin; call it what it is.
As for walking circumspectly (that is my term not his) he spoke of preachers getting so wrapped up in their ministry that they neglect their family; their wife and children. He spoke of Billy Graham upon returning from an overseas preaching tour that had him away from home for sometime found that his small children didn’t even recognize him. (Perhaps I should point out here that this is not a problem peculiar to people in Christian ministry as many businessmen and military personnel have to deal with the same problem.) I recall that three weeks after my youngest son was born via cesarian section, my wife with her newborn and our other young son, and I arrived at the home of some old friends where we were to stay while I was preaching an eleven day revival meeting. When we walked in the front door of the home the lady of the house took one look at my wife with babe in arms and said, “give me that baby.” She took the baby and cared for him the entire time we were there, even tending to him while we were sleeping at night as the need arose. Why? Because when she saw my wife she immediately recognized that she was worn to a frazzle and much in need of rest. I hadn’t even noticed.
Being a good husband and father sets a good example for the people we are ministering to.