Articles

By Don Walter
From his column A Minute with Don

minute-with-don-09-17_article.jpgIt’s not often that one is able to stand in the middle of the flow of church history. Recently, I was blessed by such an experience.

On Friday evening, June 23, 2017, the Board of Pensions and Benefits USA hosted a reception for retired ministers and spouses at General Assembly. More than 300 gathered in the room at the Indianapolis Convention Center for a time of refreshment and fellowship. Collectively, these men and women—some beginning their careers as far back as the 1940s—represented more than 5,000 years of ministerial service to the Church of the Nazarene.

As the evening was winding down, I crossed the street to a hotel where I’d been invited to visit with other men and women of the Nazarene Young Clergy Network—many of them 20-somethings, who are enjoying the romance of their first ministerial assignments. 

As I reflected on the breadth of service between these two groups, I imagined myself on a bridge spanning a great river. Looking upstream, I envisioned the past from which the waters sprang. Turning downstream, I imagined the future and the continued impact of the flow, touching lives far beyond my field of view. As I stood there I sensed God saying, “It’s okay. I’ve got this.”

Paragraph 500 of our Manual states: “The Church of the Nazarene recognizes all believers are called to minister to all people. We also recognize Christ calls some men and women to a specific and public ministry. As our Lord chose and ordained His 12 apostles He still calls and sends ministers. The church, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, recognizes God calls individuals to a lifetime of ministry. When the church discovers a divine call, the church should recognize, endorse, and assist the candidate’s entry into ministry.”

These servants touch our lives in countless ways—through their messages, their encouragement, and their presence.

If you read Chapter 1, Part VI of the Manual, it is difficult not to conclude that our church places great trust in God’s continued call on the lives of men and women to “specific and public ministry.” Likewise, we bestow significant trust in those persons as they respond in obedience to that call. We expect them to prepare themselves with personal discipline and formal education. We anticipate they will pray, preach the word, and shepherd the flock. In effect, we rely both on God’s call and on the obedience of these individuals to faithfully respond.

From early days, I was taught by my parents and the church to be thankful for and to steward the gifts God placed in my life. I think the things I learned also apply to the gift of ministers to the Church of the Nazarene. These servants touch our lives in countless ways—through their messages, their encouragement, and their presence. How indebted we are to them for their continued obedience to His call.

The financial lives of most ministers have seldom been rosy, yet they remain faithful—many of them juggling the responsibilities of pastoring with non-church employment from which they earn most of their income. An even greater percentage rely on the employment of a spouse to be financially able to serve their congregations. This is not unique to our denomination, but it is a reality of which we should be aware.

Obviously, from the perspective of Pensions and Benefits USA, we want ministers to receive adequate compensation and benefits, and certainly we are not alone in that concern. Local congregations are the first line of responsibility in caring for their pastors. And when all churches and districts support the Pensions and Benefits Fund, millions of dollars become available to assist almost 17,000 ministers and spouses, retired and active, in the form of retirement, insurance, and benevolence benefits. We are grateful for such faithfulness.

On and on the mighty stream continues to flow as new generations of men and women respond to God’s call as did the servant of old with “here am I Lord, send me.” How blessed we are to benefit from the labors of God-called clergy, and how important it is that we take every opportunity to be good stewards of these gifts God has given to us. Thanks be to God!

Don Walter is director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.

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