On Leaving A Legacy

Recently I got to witness something remarkable – a true legacy. In my duties as a hospice chaplain, I get to meet many families. Few have made such an impact on their community more than Mr. Joe. It wasn’t that Mr. Joe was blind. Many people are. It wasn’t just that he worked decades at a slaughterhouse while blind, remarkable as that was (truly blind, not just legally blind.) It wasn’t that he still worked his farm everyday while blind nor taught dozens of teens how to drive while blind (as scary as that sounds, it also explains a lot…) What impressed those of us who tended to him during his last few weeks on earth was the legacy he left behind in his family.

His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there. Not just physically, they were present with him. Not on phones or tablets or gaming systems – they were present to attend to the needs of him and his wife. The vast majority of them are all active in church. They treated those of us coming into the home to help care for him as family, not just hired help. As chaplain I get to stay with the family following death and the same treatment continues. The family is genuine and their faith is evident. This is the impressive legacy.

Stories of Mr. Joe are many and legendary in his community. More important than the stories, as compelling and entertaining as they are, is the legacy of a godly, caring family that he has left behind. They will, God willing, continue to impact the community for the kingdom of heaven. I can only pray that when my time comes, my family will show such a legacy. What about yours?

What it Means to be a Pastor

                Being a pastor in Montana means many different things to me. Since arriving in 1995, I have served churches in Red Lodge, Columbus and Havre. Being a pastor in Montana means unloading trucks outside at work at 4:30 in the morning in  -40°F weather so that the church can still afford to have a pastor.  It means reaching out to people who have never heard basic Bible stories such as Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath or the real Christmas story.

Pastoring in Montana means enduring weeks of loneliness, isolated by geography and finances from family, friends and even other pastors. It means driving hours to conferences for the fellowship with friends and the opportunity to sharpen ones skills. It means penetrating reclusive lives and investing time into communities. It means sharing your home with people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds. It means being vulnerable and authentic and living a transformed life in front of a watching world.

Pastoring in Montana means that you start laying the foundation for future works to take place.  Very quickly you learn that there is no prestige, no glory, no “bigger” church to aspire to. What there is, is plenty of is hard work, years of discipleship, mentoring, teaching and engaging. There is the joy of seeing a second generation come to know and serve the Lord. There is the joy of seeing families and marriages being put back together. There is the satisfaction of establishing stability and credibility in a community that is constantly watching to see if your Christianity is real. There is the awesome exhilaration that comes from seeing new believers mature and go out in service for the kingdom, taking the gospel to yet another place that needs to hear it.

Being a pastor in Montana is a tale of two extremes. It is a tale of hardships and frustration and of rapture and joy. It will cause you to grow closer to God than you thought possible because there is no one else around for you to turn to. It will drive you to your knees over and over seeking strength, guidance and wisdom. It will also lead you to give God all the credit because only He could possibly penetrate the darkness and hardened hearts of those who do not know Him.

Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary, sums up what I think being a pastor in Montana is all about when he says in his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, “Most leaders easily forget their primary reason for being placed in their leadership role. The primary reason isn’t for you to do things for God. It’s so God can use your leadership setting as a laboratory for shaping the image of Jesus in you.[1]

I pray that the image that is being shaped in me, as I pastor in Montana, is that of Jesus Christ.


[1] Iorg, Jeff. The Painful Side of Leadership. P12. B&H Publishing Group 2009