Jesus said, I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.He who is a hired hand and does not love the sheep when he sees the wolf come – he flees. But the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11-12
This week, Josh and I sat with a wonderful family at Swedish hospital as their father/brother/husband went through a quadruple bypass. The night before, our Middle School pastor, Josh Zappone, texted me and asked if he could join me learn about pastoral care. He is also a friend of the son-in-law of this dynamic member of our church and work together in the Student Ministry.
I told him to meet me at my house at 5:00 am. He asked what should he wear to the hospital. I replied, "Wear slacks, a dress shirt, and a sports jacket." However, when I replied I sent the text to Debbie Walter instead of Josh – it must have been around 10:00pm at the time. She texted back, "I think this message was intended for someone else." Jackie had a good laugh. When Josh arrived at my house the next morning his first words were: "Man, this is early." Thinking about many other early mornings, I responded, "Yeah, it's just like going fishing."
There is a joy in helping people and friendships run deeper when you share challenges. It has been our practice to have a pastor wait with the family as their loved one is going through a bypass, or transplant etc. It is also our policy that no one in the area dies alone. We wait with patients who will never go to our church just because it can be so helpful to sit with them, pray with them, and even sing to them (yes I have even been known to sing in such situations - although some request that I don’t). Every once in a while some one says, "I bet you don’t do this for everyone." I reply simply, "Yes, we pretty much do. Even people that don’t go to the church."
While church growth experts will tell you this is kind of hands-on pastoral care is quickly disappearing from growing churches, we hold this as a high ideal. My dad did as well for 58 years of ministry. My grandfather for 55 years. As they taught me the ministry, it was non negotiable because everyone needs a pastor. Church can be a show on Sunday mornings where no one gets to know each other. They keep a distance, which is becoming so prominent in our digital age. Their kids never get to know the pastor as friend of the family. People go through divorce, job loss, pressures of success, weddings and funerals, crisis and death alone.
When I go door-to-door inviting people to church, some people will say they used to be a churched person but they were so turned off. "Why should I get or stay involved in your church – you are obviously not perfect." I always respond, "Because at some point everyone needs a pastor."
It was just a couple of weeks ago that I was intensive care. Someone advised me to keep it a secret that I had a life threatening Pulmonary embolism. I counter, "No, I need as many people praying as possible." When my daughter Becca came to be my pastor, I told her I didn’t need a pastor I knew almost everyone at this hospital – I felt like they were all friends. And I am not afraid to die. My daughter scolded me, "Dad everyone needs a pastor." She took my hand and prayed for me and I had to agree.
Pastor David visited not long after and he also grabbed my hand for a prayer. Pastor Linda read me a scripture and led Jackie and I in prayer. You know what, Becca was right everyone needs a pastor. Every doctor, every nurse, every pastor and every executive, children and grandparents. All of us. I think I am a living, walking, talking miracle. Yes, I have great doctors that saved my life and the nurses were exceptional. But I would not wanted to go through what I went through without the calming, loving, healing, restoring, unifying power of prayer by friends from many churches. Thank you if you were one of the people praying for me. Let's continue being a church that believes that everyone needs a pastor sometimes.
Your friend for the rest of my life,
Pastor Tim White