Dr. Tony Beam Christian Blog and Commentary

A Son's Memories of Pastoral Ministry

The students began returning to North Greenville University this week which means life has become a whirlwind of activity.  I spent the better part of htis week working with Joyful Sound, the traveling music group of the Baptist Student Union at NGU.  The pressures of university life are cyclical and for me, the week Joyful Sound returns to campus means I am back on my bike pedaling as fast as I can.

On  Friday, as I was trying to catch my breath by cleaning the clutter off my desk and throwing out some old files, I came across a column by son wrote several years ago for "The Gamecock."  Adam served as the Editor for his last two years at the University of South Carolina and he now lives in Columbia, S.C. where he works for The State newspaper.  The title of the column is "Preacher's Retirement Evokes Son's Memories."  While I didn't really retire from anything I am sure it seemed like retirement for Adam.  Being a PK (preacher's kid) is no easy road.  In this column, my son reflected on what it was like to grow up preacher's kid so I thought it might serve as an encouragement to all who labor for the Lord as Pastor of the local church. 

So, I gave my column space this week to my son....in whom I am well pleased.

This summer, my dad walked away from full-time preaching, with tears falling on his uneaten cheesecake.  The cake was on one of those plastic plates, the kind you can get away with at both formal and informal events.  I watched him as person after person, came up to him and squeezed his neck, trying to relive 10 years of memories in one conversation.  But it was more than 10 years.  My father had been a preacher for more than 20, serving in various capacities at various churches with various results.

Usually when we left a church, the members would hold a farewell service where everyone talked about how great he was.  Then we would move to the fellowship hall, were we always wound up eating cheesecake and drinking tropical fruit punch.  Then we would leave, moving on to the next church, the next school and meeting my next friends.

For one of those moves, I skipped the school part. My parents decided to homeschool us so they took my sister and me and started teaching us at home.  by "they" I mean my mom, but I call her "mama."  She and I had some fun times during my homeschooling days, which included her slamming a ketchup bottle on the kitchen table so hard it exploded, which to a 6th grade boy was hilarious.  So I laughed....a lot.  She didn't.

Dad wasn't there because he was working.  I've learned that pastors don't work from 9 to 5; they work from person-to-person.  Hospital visits counseling sessions, late-night vigils in ER's holding weeping mothers and sitting with confused fathers.  He's also been to many births, weddings, revivals, potllucks, and mission trips.

Oh, the mission trips.  There as Jamaica (five times), Russia, and Hungary. In Jamaica, he built a church for Pastor McLeod and rode a bus up a mountain road every morning that was just wide enough for a small car and a prayer.  In Russia, he took a hot shower every morning because an ex-Russian tank commander got up at 4:00a.m., chopped wood, built a fire, boiled water and used a hand pump to work the shower.  My dad cried when he found out.

But all of that ended in June of 2003, and for the first time in my life I go to a church and listen to a man who isn't my father.  I don't hear sermon illustrations from my childhood. I don't make small talk with people who know my dad but don't know me.  I don't know how to feel about that.  You see, I've always been a PK, and I don't think I know how to be anyting else.  Maybe this is God's way of showing me it's time to grow up, to stop thinking of myself in terms of my father.

But as I stood there and watched him last Sunday night in June, I couldn't help but notice the cheesecake he never got to eat.  Come to think of it, I can't remember my dad ever eating at one of these receptions.  I just remember people, plates and soggy cheesecake.

Seeing your life through the eyes of your children can be an eye opening experience. Obviously, I have made many mistakes and missed many opportunities along the way but I praise God that my son saw me as a minister....someone who cared for others.  I am thankful that when my son looked at my life as a pastor he saw more ministry than meetings.  I guess I was just reminded by this article that the life I am living is being reflected in the eyes of those I love....I need to make sure I make the most of it.



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