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The Greatest Pastor Appreciation Gift Ever!

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Editor’s Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month. There are many ways to celebrate the ministries that pastors are doing in Alliance churches. The following story is one way a congregation said thanks to its leader when he needed it the most.

I was in the darkness between “overwhelmed” and “burned out,” a heavy place where a pastor takes on burdens only Jesus can lift. The board and I had just finished meticulously going through the church’s bylaws. We had measured every word, discussed and argued the issues and eventually voted on them. I was also trying to finish my ordination at the same time we were developing new ministries within the church and considering selling our building. Did I mention that baby number six was on the way?

Thankfully, I had good leadership with me in the church. While I was busy wondering if I was cut out to be a pastor, my church was busy praying—for me! That is when the floodgates opened, and I received what I consider “The Greatest Pastor Appreciation Gift Ever!” It gave me a greater understanding of Scripture, a greater passion for my Savior and a greater love for my people!

Name That Place

The gift came at the end of a Sunday morning service. One of the elders stood up after the final prayer and invited the congregation to “stay and play a game.” I trusted this elder, so I did not stop him, but I considered it! The game was called “Name That Place.” Two men were picked to play along with me. The first two pictures projected onto the video screen were generic—they could have come from anywhere in the world! When asked to “name that place,” I could not do it. The other two men, of course, gave the correct answers. I was given another chance—this time for the grand prize. A picture of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was projected on the screen, and I guessed correctly.

My wife came forward with a yarmulke (Jewish skull cap) and some shekels. I thanked her as everyone clapped, but I did not realize that “Round Trip, All Expenses Paid Trip to the Holy Lands” was flashing on the screen behind me. The elder asked me to turn around and read what I won. I wept. The entire trip was paid for by people who love me and wanted to invest in me as a pastor, friend or family member! I was, and still am, completely amazed and thankful for this gift.

A Better Understanding

I had no idea how this trip would change me. I have always had questions about certain things in Scripture: I never really understood the significance of the Tabernacle or how David could have seen Bathsheba while he was walking around the palace. I didn’t know how everyone entered the Temple or about the amazing connection between Mount Moriah and Calvary—until I was in the land where it all happened!

As I knelt where the shekinah glory of God was manifested for 369 years in Shiloh, I was struck by its significance to the New Testament. The trip to Shiloh has changed how I look at passages like John 14:6, in which Jesus said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” These were the names of the entrances into the Tabernacle. Jesus went on to say that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” His statement would have made perfect sense to the first century hearer, but the meaning of His words has been lost through changes in culture.

Our group stopped 200 yards from the site of David’s palace, and I understood how this king was able to see into the yard of everyone in his kingdom. I stood on the southern steps of the Temple where Jesus was dedicated and where He entered into the Temple to worship with friends and family. I was overwhelmed with the realization that only time separated me from my Savior.

In Israel, I understood Jesus like never before! I saw Him as a Jewish rabbi leading a group of men who were thirsty for the Scriptures. I followed His path near Bethlehem to Nazareth to Capernaum to Jerusalem. I smelled the sea and tasted the food. For a moment, I looked eagerly past the hill in front of me expecting to see my Jesus wave His hand as if to say, “Come and follow Me!”

I sat with teachers of the law in Jerusalem and heard them say that they “expect the third temple to be built today. If it’s not built today, then it will definitely be built tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then it will absolutely be built by the end of the week!” I sensed the Spirit say, “Do you expect Me like they expect the Temple?” Now I tell our church during Communion that “He is coming again! Probably today. If not today, then tomorrow, but certainly by the end of the week!”

Many people asked for me to tell them about my trip. “It is like walking through a desert and needing a drink,” I said. “Once I got out of the desert, all I could find was a fire hydrant. I wanted all of the water, but I could not drink it all in—but I tried!”

Invest in Your Pastor

The church members loved hearing what God had done with their investment—me! I looked on the people with fresh eyes. I saw them perhaps as Jesus saw them, and I loved them better than I had in the past. They did not buy my affection. They prayerfully saw my struggles, and they invested in me. The bylaws did not matter as much, new ministries were not as tiring, selling our building was secondary and ordination was not the great burden that it had been. The dark place shined, and the heavy place was light!

It is not fair for me to speak of “The Greatest Pastor Appreciation Gift Ever” and not give you an opportunity to bless your own pastor! I am taking a group of pastors to Israel in January 2010. This trip will allow Alliance churches to make an investment that will empower a pastor to have a greater understanding of Scripture, a greater passion for his Savior and a greater love for his congregation. Perhaps you can’t send your pastor at this time, but you want to invest in another pastor. Please do! Several churches have had to decline this trip for their pastor because of financial limitations.

For more information, contact me, Ken White, at 307-577-1847 or e-mail me at pastor@casperalliance.org. The meal is ready. I invite your pastor to come and eat!

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