Voices: Lessons from a forgotten pastor

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Our local newspaper in Brenham has a section of excerpts from previous editions. Recently, I was reading this section, and I came to an excerpt from 1943 about the new pastor coming to serve at the same church I currently serve, Brenham’s First Baptist. The pastor’s name was N.E. McGuire, and he previously had served 14 years at Emmanuel Baptist in San Angelo.

The excerpt read, “McGuire says he is happy to be in Brenham and will give his best efforts toward serving not only the Baptist congregation, but the entire town, to the best of his ability.”

After reading this, I searched a list I have of previous pastors and noted McGuire served here from 1943 to 1945. Serving a two-year pastorate is not a long time, especially given the fact he previously had been at another church 14 years.

I decided to go online to see what else I might learn about Pastor McGuire. At the time of writing, I have not found anything about him—not even an obituary.

Questions about a forgotten pastor

Not knowing anything about McGuire except the years he served and his initial vision when he arrived in Brenham leaves me with questions:

  • Why was he here for only two years?
  • While his vision for serving the church and community is wonderful, how did that take shape during his two years here?
  • Were his years here filled with mostly joy or disappointment?
  • What came of him and his family?

Taking stock of my own pastorate

The odds are I never will know the answers to most of these questions. The reality is N.E. McGuire’s service to Brenham’s First Baptist Church has been forgotten mostly. The fact that a pastor’s service can be forgotten so easily caused me to step back and be reminded of some important and sometimes challenging truths.

A pastor ultimately is called to serve in a way glorifying to God and seeking his affirmation. When pastors base their service on trying to build a platform, win a popularity contest, seeking to be famous, or being remembered, they forget none of these efforts ultimately matter. What matters most is receiving from the Chief Shepherd “the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).

Given enough time, most pastors will not be remembered by anyone except God. While there are pastors remembered throughout history—Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon and others—most pastors will not be remembered. Most pastors, if they are fortunate, will have their name and dates of service on a list of pastors for a given church. This can be hard to hear, but it can help pastors maintain perspective about themselves and how they will be remembered.

The church belongs to God. It does not belong to pastors, deacons or members. Pastors, like everyone else in the church, come and go. Therefore, pastors are called to steward—and steward well—what God owns.

Unless the pastor is the first pastor of a church, most pastors inherit the legacy of previous pastors. This looks different in every church, but every pastor who came before left a legacy of some things that were done well and some things that could have been done better. Every pastor, in other words, left the church stronger and weaker in some ways. The same will be true once the current pastor leaves. It is important, therefore, for pastors to look ahead and think about how they will leave the church and what legacy they will leave for their successors.

Ross Shelton is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Brenham.

 


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