I’ll never forget the day Sonja and I drove up to the Saluda Church of God for the first time. We were the new pastor and this was our first assignment as a pastor.
As to be expected, there were challenges and lessons to be learned but I will always remember with great warmth and gratitude the dear people that were our congregation those many years ago.
Jobs were scarce in Saluda county in those days and thus there was little financial support for a young pastor and his growing family. However, the people did the best they could and along with several odds jobs and part-time jobs I was able to earn my keep.
There was one family in particular that took us under their wings and really looked out for us. For example, one of the brothers allowed us to live rent-free in one of his mobile homes. He often took us out to eat or invited us to his house to eat. On one occasion he even borrowed money so that he could pay tithes on money he hoped to earn—he did this so that I would be able to get paid that month.
Bottom line, these people loved us and cared for us.
Run the clock up about two and half years and one Sunday I stood behind my pulpit and resigned. It was nothing personal against the dear people at Saluda and I must also admit that it was not very spiritual as well.
The real reason was that a District Overseer from a nearby district had asked me several times to go to a church that was on his district. They had a nice parsonage and the assignment came with a generous (for the times) salary. Finally, I took the bait and said yes.
The next day after making my resignation announcement, the man who had allowed me to live in his home and had been so faithful to help and support me showed up on my (his) doorsteps. He was several years my senior—a grow man. But that day as he stood there on the doorsteps looking up at me he was crying. I’ll never forget his words, he said, “Preacher, why are you leaving us?”
That was the day I learned one of the most important lessons in life. That was the day that I learned that life was not youth camp, or just a gig where you pick up a paycheck till you find a better gig. That was the day I began to understand that life had to be more than just perks and a career path. That was the day I learned that behind it all it is people that matter. Our decisions and actions affect people. It is people’s lives we are toying around with.
It was too late at Saluda. The damage was done, the resignation had been made, and another congregation was expecting their new pastor. But I can honestly say I learned that lesson well. There have been other moves and career changes. But I have never stopped hearing those words: “Preacher, why are you leaving us?” And those words have always caused me to check my heart to make sure it was God and God only that was directing me to take a new direction.
- The ONE THING for today: You never make just “business decisions”. It is never just “the principle of thing.” Ultimately, whatever your occupation or destination, it is people and only people that matter.
Matthew 9:36 (NKJV)
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.