Blessed Is the Person Who Has a Pastor Today, those who love my pastor celebrate his birthday. Knowing him, he’s not making a big deal out of it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t.
I want to go beyond him and think about the three men whom I have called “pastor” in my 51 years. I should pause right there. In a day when the word privilege has become a derogatory term, how privileged am I to have had only three pastors in my lifetime! God has been good to me when I think of my pastors.
As a child and through my college years, I grew up under the genuine example of Pastor Bill Schroeder. Pastor Schroeder taught me to love the church, not the buildings or the programs, but the people who comprise a local church. He displayed his love for the people from the pulpit and in the lobby. While preaching authoritatively from God’s Word, I never recall him berating the church; rather, he tenderly admonished us to obedience of Christ fostered on Christ’s love for us and our love for him.
In the lobby when worship was over, Pastor Schroeder warmly welcomed each in attendance. That was no small task in a gathering of many hundreds. When he shook the hands of the young boys, he taught us to look another man in the eyes and greet them with a firm handshake. He recognized the innocence of the little girls and sought their protection in the home and in the church.
To him marriage and the home were of the highest Christian priorities and deserved all necessary attention to promote their success. His sermons and teaching on marriage and the family continue to be the bedrock for Brenda and me in our relationship and toward our children.
From his ministry tree grow branches of Christian testimony all across the United States and around the world. Conservatively speaking, there are thousands of souls headed to heaven or already there because of the “soulwinning” efforts of Bill Schroeder, his “preacher boys,” and the members of the church he served.
Now in his 80s, Pastor Schroeder continues pastoral ministry in a local church in suburban Chicago. I am privileged to call Bill Schroeder my pastor.
In reality few people outside of a small circle of very conservative Christianity know Pastor Tom Olney. This is a great loss for the rest of Christianity. Open a dictionary and search for the word “pastor” and there you will find a picture of Tom Olney. He is in every sense of the word, a shepherd.
It was the summer of 1988 when Pastor Olney brought me to the pastoral staff of Faith Baptist Church in Godfrey, Illinois, a city in the shadows of St. Louis, Missouri. Freshly graduated from seminary and recently married, I was chomping at the bit to get going. The church needed a youth pastor, and I needed a job. We were a match made in heaven.
Pastor Olney and I were together for only four years, but I cannot express how much I learned from him on a pastoral level and how much I gained from him on personal level. In the years I was with him, he bore many personal pains and too many pastoral burdens. Over and again, I watched him handle them with a graciousness and wisdom that was not of this world. He could laugh at himself while never laughing at other people. He loudly celebrated the accomplishments of others while never drawing attention to himself.
When he took up archery deer hunting, stories of the hunt became regular sourcing for sermon illustrations. My recollection is the stories were genuinely self-deprecating and always God praising. As the story unfolded, the rate of the spoken words increased too. “So, there I was sitting in the stand, and I saw this buck way across the field, and I began to pray. ‘Now, Lord, you know the freezer is empty and that deer is too far away for me to shoot.’ And then that deer turned in a way I’ve never seen a deer turn and started walking right toward me. Then he stopped at the end of my range, and he wasn’t coming any closer. So, I prayed. ‘Lord, I’m going to take this shot, but you know this is a long shot. You’re going to have guide this arrow.’ And well, there’s a deer in the freezer that God gave to me. Isn’t God so good?”
I could go on and on about his impact on my life via boxing, Volkswagen Beetle cars, tragic loss of life in the youth group, miscarriage in our little family, and watching him love his wife and point his five children toward Jesus Christ.
When I was a 23-year-old kid, Pastor Olney took a huge risk on me inviting me to join his pastoral staff and the work at Faith Baptist. His contributions to me, to Brenda, and to Michael in those four years far outweigh my contributions to the church.
Pastor Tom Olney began his ministry at Faith in the 1960s when he was in his 20s. More than 50 years later, Pastor Tom Olney continues to shepherd the only church ever to call him pastor. I am privileged to call Tom Olney my pastor.
Today is Dan Dickerson’s birthday. He and my mom were born months apart. Over the last 25 years, he has become my spiritual father. Should you hear me use the phrase, “my pastor,” I am likely talking about Pastor Dan Dickerson, the senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Midland, Michigan.
Brenda and I left southern Illinois to head north and join the pastoral staff where Pastor Dan led the effort. Leaving our former ministry was bittersweet but seemed to be the leading of the Lord. In hindsight no question remains in my mind that it was the Lord’s leading.
Each pastor has his strengths and his limitations. Some pastors are masters in the pulpit while others are masters around the kitchen table. Of his many strengths and gifts, none stands out more to me than Pastor Dan’s character. In my intimate knowledge of him for the majority of my adult life, no one has ever had an occasion to question his character. When Bible study authors comment on Paul’s words, “a bishop then must be blameless” (1 Timothy 3:2), they would be accurate to put in their notes, “See Dan Dickerson in Midland, Michigan, as an example.”
As a spiritual father to me, he modeled in words and deeds, both when he knew I was observing and when he did not know, what it means to be a Christian husband, father, and pastor. I grew more as a man in my nearly 10 years with Pastor Dan than at any point in my life before or since. Since our move to Minnesota more than 16 years ago, he remains my most trusted counselor. At any moment on any day, I can pick up the phone and call him, and he will do for me whatever is in his power to do. He is my example of what a pastor can be.
Like a wise father, he knew when to advise me, challenge me, prompt me, and rebuke me. Like a wise father, he never claimed to know everything on every subject, but was mindful to learn as much as he could on a subject so as to help me and others. Like a wise father, he bore problems not created by him but embraced by him for the good of the church. So much more should be written about his pastoral impact on the people of Midland, Michigan.
Pastor Dan Dickerson, blessed with good health but at an age where many have left the work of the Lord, continues to serve as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Midland, Michigan. I love him, and I am privileged to call him my pastor.
Of note to me is how each of these men and their wives continue to serve the Lord in the latter years of their lives. Sure, time means they move a little slower, but not by much. Age means their bodies fatigue more easily, but not enough to stop them. They remain kind, loving, joyful, courageous, studious, and useful in their older years. I want this for myself, and I hope you want this too. Now in this time of their lives they continue to teach me what it looks like to be a Christian pastor, and more, what it looks like to be a Christian man.
God has been so good to me to give me a pastor. I thank my Lord Jesus for his special gifts (Ephesians 4:11-12).
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.