Friday, August 26, 2016

Turning the Page: A New Chapter

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5 KJV)

As I sat down to compose this post, I struggled with a variety of emotions, as well as wondering how I could clearly communicate my heart with all who will read this post—realizing that I wanted to keep my focus on the Lord while honoring a special person (my spiritual dad)—my now former pastor.  It is a bittersweet time, as is true of most all transitions.  A time of sadness and a time of hope (see Jeremiah 29:11)—stepping into an unknown future trusting an omnipotent God Who not only knows the future, He is already there!  Jesus is so important in change; He gives us hope.

Pastor Neil and me.  Taken May 29, 2016

Pastor Neil and me.  Taken  May 29, 2016

The above Scripture is part of the text Neil used in his final sermon at Trinity United Methodist Church in Albia, Iowa, for the complete text click here:  1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5.  The title for this post came to me as I was listening to the children’s message on Neil’s last Sunday.

On June 12, 2016, we (my church and I) said, “see you later” to our beloved pastor, Neil, who retired from full time ministry of thirty plus years (including seven years at Trinity).  Neil is currently transitioning into part-time ministry, serving two small churches in southern Iowa.  For Christians, when we part, it is never “good-bye” but “see you later”.  Grasping this is comforting to me.  It makes parting “easier”.

Sunday, July 4, 2004, is a day that God instigated a big change in my life; this was my introduction to Pastor Neil (in my hometown church)!  (In retrospect, it is rather “fitting” that it was Independence Day!)  It may not have been immediate but ever so slowly, the Lord wooed me back to Him through Neil’s ministry (this is worthy of its own post at some point)—consistently pointing to Jesus and preaching from the Word—proclaiming the message that God desires nothing more than a relationship with you. 

Throughout Neil’s ministry that I have been privileged to experience (and long before, I am sure); it is always about Jesus and not about Neil.  In fact, over the twelve years I have known him; I have not heard his testimony!  In response to a draft of this post that I shared with him, Neil stated: “I do not consider myself as having arrived.  But, I press on to the high calling believing that God will complete the work He has started in me.  I trust that He is working mightily in you as well.”

Pastor Neil at Family Life Center Celebration 2015 Photo Credit D. Wright

By November/December 2004 the direction of my life was changing (I was “broken”, having come to the end of myself)—God was calling me into a deeper relationship with Him and into ministry!  My first meeting with Neil in his office in December of 2004, awakened me to a new vision, a new view of God and His love.  In that first—of many—meetings, I felt so safe and so loved—that the walls I had erected began to come down.  These feelings were new to me—I did not feel safe or loved like that in my own family.

At this point, I should note that the Lord orchestrated a number of events, which combined afforded me the freedom (in 2009) to switch churches (at the His leading), so I could continue to sit under Neil’s preaching and teaching.  (The change in churches did us both a world of good!)  I followed the Lord, not a man.

Personal Photo

The Scripture I shared above from Neil’s sermon text is appropriate for Neil as a person and as a pastor.  He consistently preaches Jesus and knows the Word in a way that I had never before experienced.  Until 2004 I had no idea how spiritually malnourished I had become, the malnourishment was a long-term issue.  Many individuals, I am sure, have been richly blessed through Neil’s ministry.  I know I have been richly blessed!  He is a truly a shepherd of the Lord’s people.

Like any good pastor should do, Neil consistently affirmed the people in his care to follow the Lord, to be in the Word, equipping us for ministry, and to be active in ministry in the community and beyond.  Neil doing so well what he does, some how motivated me to say “yes” to God’s call on my life:  preaching (mostly as  lay speaker), leading small groups/Bible studies (occasionally), teaching Sunday school, writing a blog, and more.  Life changing for sure!

Let your moderation [gentleness] be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 
(Philippians 4:5 KJV)

When I think about Neil and his qualities, I see so much of Jesus in him—that the light of Jesus shines out all around him.  Neil is the only person who comes to mind who is consistently kind, gentle, and loving to the people in his life (see Philippians 4:5).  There are times, I am sure that Neil does not exhibit those qualities—in a fallen world that is to be expected.  It is staying in that place that is to be avoided.  I do not know about you, but I desire for others to see Jesus in me and not just see me.   

Pastor Neil speaking at Trinity UMC Anniversary celebration 2014.  Photo Credit D. Wright

Pastor Neil--Confirmation Baptism (2014?).  Photo Credit D. Wright

Pastor Neil praying.  Photo Credit D. Wright

Throughout all the time I have known him, Neil is one of the most consistent people I have ever met—consistent in humbling doing whatever task is in front of him, humbly coming along side the people in his midst—being the hands and feet of Jesus.  My mom and I were blessed when he came along side and walked with us during her rather short cancer journey.  My family and I were blessed with a beautiful service celebrating my mom’s life that he conducted.

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV)

Pointing to Jesus and exalting Him—simply Jesus—is a great way to succinctly summarize Neil’s ministry and life.  Following the example of Jesus, becoming more Christ-like is what all of us are to do—having examples to look to is so helpful—Neil is an example in my life.  He is truly a lump of clay in the Potter’s hands.  In my mind, this is something that I desire to emulate.  What about you?

How have you been blessed by a pastor’s ministry?

The following song by Donna Jackson is a great tribute to many pastors; it was so fitting for Pastor Neil.  I heard it for the first time on June 12, 2016, in a video tribute to Pastor Neil.  Please take time and listen to it.

In case you have trouble understanding the lyrics please click here.

Please join with me in prayer:  

Dear Lord, thank You for faithful pastors, like Neil, who make it all about You, not about themselves.  Thank You for the example of a humble servant so many have observed in Neil and many others like him.  During this time of transition, remind us to keep open minds to Your plans for the future, as we adjust to a new pastor.  Pour out Your bountiful blessings on Neil and his family as he continues to faithfully serve You and exalt Jesus.  In Jesus’ Name, we pray.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,



  1. A wonderful tribute to a spiritual giant of a man! Neil sounds exactly like Pastor Wallace - it's never about them, it's all about Jesus. Thanks for sharing Neil's influence on you and your Christian journey, Kim!
    Love and blessings!

    1. Thank you so much Martha for your kind words. When I read your tribute to Pastor Wallace, I saw how much they had in common. Even without doing it directly, I've been sharing Neil's influence on me and my Christian journey through this blog, through preaching and teaching.

      Love and blessings!


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