Noah and Nate were best friends. By all accounts, the two boys were inseparable. They went to school and church together. On the 4th of July, they went to Cherokee Lake together, and Noah, age 10, and Nate, age 11, lost their lives together because of a tragic accident on that outing. Sunday night at first Baptist Church of Morristown, these two friends had their funerals…together.
The boys’ families were active members at First Baptist, Morristown. Noah’s mom, Jessica, served on staff at this great East Tennessee church. For days, like many of you, I have been heartsick for these families. Because of pastoring there for nine years, I know many of the people who were involved. I have also been painfully aware of the difficult and hard journey that Pastor Dean Haun, Children’s Pastor, Tim Thompson, and Pastor of Care, Danny Georges, and others would be making with these two precious families.
In 2010, I wrote about these kinds of days the shepherd would experience in I Am a Pastor:
“At times, it is hard to be a shepherd. That is not an objection—just an observation. For you see, the Pastor is well acquainted with a dark, dangerous and deserted place called the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Walking through this horrible enemy territory will break your heart, but time and time again you do it, never getting used to it. My flock, every single one of them, will go through—indeed must go through—this part of the journey. Along the tear-stained trail, we will see a flag-draped coffin of a soldier son’s sacrifice. We will hear a little boy ask about the next coffin, ‘Why is Grandmamma in that treasure box?’ And we see far too many times the long-stemmed roses longer than the baby’s bassinet crafted for burial. This walk I take too, for you see, I am a Pastor.”
“Being there” is what a pastor does. He shepherds the flock. Going into the darkest of nights with your church family adds credibility and authenticity to what you do behind the pulpit. In most churches, the descriptor of your role is not preacher or teacher or Ecclesiastical CEO; it’s “pastor.” Most of our people will forget most all the sermons we preach. They never forget their pastor being there.
So to all of you who tend the sheep on behalf of the greatest Shepherd, thank you for practicing the power of presence…thank you for being there.
And it is a joy and privilege to be with you on this journey.