Early Sunday morning, a mentor in my life passed away. Back in the early 90s I had the opportunity to serve on a church staff led by Pastor Rod Masteller. Putnam City Baptist Church in OKC happened to be my future wife’s home church, the same church where her parents were married in 1969. This church and serving there has a special place in my journey no doubt. While there are many good memories wrapped up in this place of service, one significant factor is the opportunity to cross paths with this Pastor and experience his influence in my life in 3 key ways:
Guiding through Key Transitions
As a leader, you would be familiar with being asked, “What do you think I should do?” I hit a key transition point in my life: stay and serve there locally at the church, or move on to seminary and move forward with that pursuit right away. Jennifer had another year before graduating from University nearby. I was already taking seminary extension courses while serving. Should I stay and serve there longer, or should I move on ahead of my fiance settling in the area of the seminary in Texas?
Here’s the thing for decision making. It is not the easy stuff I am referring to in this pursuit of wisdom and direction. There are truly easy pitches that take no time in deciding, clear choices between right wrong, good evil, sinful, all of those are easy. What is complex are the choices of actual good options. There is nothing good or evil about pursuing seminary in Oklahoma City or Ft Worth, but the decision is still weighty! He did not have the answers, but he knew the Answer – get with Jesus.
How did he recommend this time with Jesus? For my decision point, he recommended I take a day, find a unique place – in this case, one of the meeting rooms there in the church – and schedule the day for me, alone, to meet with the Lord. He recommended taking my Bible, journal, pen and be ready to pray, read, write. But, most of all my task and “appointment” that day was to ask the Lord to lead. I still use this technique to this day when someone asks me advice about a life decision or ‘crisis point’ fork in the road. Get with Jesus. Bro. Rod was not the Holy Spirit junior. The will for my life was not Bro. Rod’s but God’s and he knew what I needed most was to connect with God.
I did that very thing. Obviously as disciples we all walk daily with the Lord in dialog with Him. But for crisis points like this, I still believe it is important to go alone to the hillside, pray, focus, meditate, read, wrestle and ask God for clarity. I walked away from that day with the Lord giving confidence he was guiding me in my decision. When important life ‘crisis point’ decisions come up in your life (and there could be just a handful), invest time by scheduling large chunks of time to literally focus on the decision before you with the Lord.
Pointing to Key Resources
I still have a copy of a book in my library that Bro. Rod encouraged me to walk through. He knew the direction I was pointing my life in ministry and he had a key tool to put in my mind. The book is Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. This simple read is chunked into bite-sized portions that cover the span of healthy spiritual leadership and life.
Even as I flip through the preface by the author, I read and am reminded as he shares, “If I had my life over again, I would devote much more time to the ministry of comfort and encouragement.”
Presence at Key Moments
I have a church member friend who recently shared that Bro. Rod was the kind of pastor who related personally with those in his care. My friend shared of Bro. Rod being available recently, decades later, to preach her mom’s funeral. He was the kind of Pastor who was blessed with a large platform and reach, but balanced that with a strong ability to connect on personal levels with many, especially at times of pastoral care. For those of you in ministry, you know this is a hard balance.
For me, his ministry presence involves marrying my wife and I. He invested through many moments of observing his ministry. He invested in me and my ministry by leading that church to grant my License to the Gospel Ministry, when I was still green and thought I knew so much. I am grateful to Bro. Rod and his influence on my life and ministry particularly at key points.
The older I get, I have such profound gratitude for the daily grace and mercy applied to my own struggles and flaws, and the grace and mercy given by God to serve through them. Bro. Rod was not perfect, I am not perfect. But, we are responsible to keep on serving, keep on confessing, keep on striving, and to keep on pointing the way forward. When I think on Bro. Rod and his influence, I am mindful of this key verse:
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their way of life, imitate their faith.Hebrews 13:7
Now minister/leader, it’s your turn. Who will you influence? You can be intentional or accidental in guiding. You can be present or absent. I am grateful that in many ways and by many leaders, leaders in my life have been intentional at key times. Be ready with the tools, advice and direction for key moments in others’ lives. You will have an impact.