“My name is Bear and I’m a hugger!” That was the first time I met Howard ‘Bear’ Chandler. He was a great man, a great Christian, and a great church member. Over the time I knew Bear he taught me many things. He taught me how to toss a tomahawk and how to throw a Bowie knife. He let me shoot his antique flintlock shotgun. He introduced me to his favorite afternoon snack, Cheetos Puffcorn. We had so many wonderful conversations about his Native American ancestry, his early life growing up in the Smokey Mountains, his time fighting as a Marine in World War II, and his career as an Arkansas State Trooper. He was an amazing man who lived an amazing life, and it was a blessing for Bear and I to share life together.
There are many church members with whom I’ve had the privilege of developing true and lasting friendships through experiences similar to those I shared with Bear. And, most of these experiences didn’t happen in a sanctuary. They happened as we shared life experiences in homes, in yards, at the lake, at deer camp, and at various church activities. I was mentored by a man named Muncy Harris who showed me the difference in being a preacher and a pastor. We once had a conversation about a book entitled The Romance of Doorbells by Eugene Dolloff. Dolloff suggested that visiting people in their homes was essential to becoming their pastor. He goes as far as suggesting that you will never truly become someone’s pastor until you’ve learned where and how they live. My experience in four churches over twenty years of ministry would affirm Dolloff’s conclusion.
How I share life with church members in the twenty first century might be different than Dolloff’s methods in the 1950’s. However, the premise is still true. Sharing life with others is the biblical model of discipleship. Time is a limited resource. Therefore, I’ve learned to capitalize on opportunities to see many people at the same time. When our church has a senior adult activity I try to be there. I can’t spend an hour in each of their homes that week, but by participating in the activity I can spend time with all of them. I can’t have every church family over for dinner in a week, but I can visit with many of them over a bag of popcorn at the local high school ballgame. When our church has potluck I will often stand toward the back of the line and welcome everyone as they come in to the meal. I can eat later that afternoon, but I can’t visit that many people in their homes later that afternoon. In order to minister effectively in a local context we must make sharing life a priority. It’s not always easy. But it is always worth it. Be creative. Maximize opportunities. Find ways to share life with those in the church where you serve.
Written by Pastor Laramie LeQuieu, Rector First Baptist Church