Wednesday, March 16, 2011

People that make life richer…

I was at lunch yesterday being introduced to a friend of a friend.  In this introduction, there were many nice things said about me and the work of our church in the community.  These are always fun to hear.  But truthfully, I am never really sure how to react to that; because I know that the “success” I have known (both as a person and a pastor) is a product of so many other people.  I get a lot more credit than I deserve. 

The good news is that the discomfort led me to an idea about this week’s blog post.  I want to use this note to affirm and express appreciation publicly for four people who have made ongoing and sacrificial investments in me and the church I get to lead.  Without their contribution, I would not be the man I am today nor would Woodcrest be the church it is today.

DR. ROD CASEY – Rod joined the Woodcrest staff in January of 1995.  He came with a passion for seeing the local church be effective, but he also unashamedly said, “I am here to serve you.” It is one thing to say that, but it is another thing to live it.  He has.  It doesn’t really matter what he is asked to do, he always does it with heart and skill.  Over the course of time, he has worked with small groups.  He counseled the hurting.  He helped with singles.  He wrote leadership development curriculum.  He conducted weddings and funerals.  He preached great sermons.  But more than anything else, he was and still is a confidante and counselor to me.

Currently, his greatest contribution to our ministry is that he is our resident theologian.  Believe it or not, every church needs a great theologian, because the church is not just a business.  It is not just a not-for-profit organization.  It is not just an educational institution.  It is a faith community – and everything we do has theological implications (whether or not we realize it).  Rod has kept our theological lens clear.  He has helped steer this work in a way that honors Christ not just in our mission and vision, but in how we think and act.  What a gift he has been to me and us (and all of mid-Missouri).

CHRIS MITCHELL – For most people who know and love Chris, it is because of his amazing talent as a musician.  He is all that.  He was classically trained. He has toured with a Christian band.  He makes most songs sound better on our stage than they sound on the recordings by the original artist.  What many people may not know about Chris is that he is an extremely gifted and caring leader.  He leads a large staff of musicians and technical personnel (both paid and volunteer).  He is always thinking about the next grand production whether it is a CD project, an Easter weekend, or a new video venue.

In this last season, he also served as the staff liaison for the construction of our new youth facility.  Think about this for a moment.  How many pastor-types do you know that can help manage a two million dollar construction project and sound like Bono singing U2 all in the same week?  Ex-act-l-y!

Beyond all the great work Chris produces, I am most grateful for his heart for people, which he hasn’t kept from me.  He has loved me in some very tender places of my life.  Though I serve as his “boss”, we actually live and serve together more like co-laborers and brothers in Christ!  I am a blessed man!

BETH BRAMSTEDT – Beth is our senior staff person.  By that I mean she has served at Woodcrest longer than anyone else.  She started working part-time at the church while going to MU while pursuing a journalism degree.  Now she serves as our Administrative Pastor.  For Beth, this isn’t just her title.  This is who she is.  She is a pastor by calling and an administrator by passion.  In our context, that means that she (and her very capable team) works hard to remove any/every structural barrier that might impede our capacity to sustain effective ministry.  Specifically, she oversees our marketing, budgeting process, facilities, and volunteer services.

In my world, what Beth helps me figure out is sequencing.  You can have great ideas and great people passionate about doing great things.  But, when the timing gets off or people don’t understand how one part of the organization affects actions in other parts of the organization, things get very confusing very quickly.  People get upset.  Finger-pointing becomes common place.  Soon, everything becomes political.  Few people will ever really appreciate the value of Beth’s instinctive capacity to know who, what, and where things fit at what time – and how our long-running effectiveness has so much to do with her diligence on this front.  Thank you, Lord, for Beth!

KAREN LAUGHTER – Karen serves as the pastor in our family life ministries.  For those from birth through college age, Karen stands watch and gives/leads (with unrelenting passion) both kids and parents alike.  Karen is the consummate learner.  If she doesn’t know it, she learns it.  She is tireless worker.  If a person needs extra time or a lesson needs some extra attention, Karen willing gives it.  She is quick to admit her short-comings and regularly under-sells her part because she is so busy giving credit to everyone else.

More than most people I know, Karen is a lover of souls.  She wouldn’t think twice about scooping up a toddler in her arms, patiently listening to a broken-hearted 13 year-old girl, or call out the immature antics of an 18 year-old boy twice her size.  She lives for this.

How did I get this lucky?

I have seen my share of arrogant leader-types, who think it is all about them.  I am sure I have my moments too.  But, sometimes the talent and spirit of the people around you is too impressive to ignore. I am a blessed man.  Because of the people I have been privileged to serve alongside, I am a better man.  If I can add value to others as they have added value to me, then I will have lived a good life.  But, they sure did set the bar pretty high. 

Guess I can’t retire anytime soon…

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