“And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
Tonight we will attend a very special service for the pastor who has served our home church, Lakeview Assembly of God, for over 22 years! (from 1975-1983 and then again from 1993 – 2009) We do not attend Sunday evening service on a regular basis (this has been a purposeful decision on our part not just a haphazard “we don’t feel like going” thing – that is another blog post) but tonight we will be there to honor this very special man and his wife who committed over two decades to pastoring, teaching, counseling and ministering to our church and our family. Pastor Kraft is one of four men who have been my pastor since I have made Lakeview my home over 27 years ago.
I was not a member during his first term at Lakeview. I began attending shortly after he moved to Washington to pastor a church there, yet I benefited from the countless people whose lives he touched during that era – men like Dr. Cliff Kelly, Donnie Moore, Tim Ditmore & Tom Cudd who each had a profound influence at different seasons of my life. He also laid the foundation for a season of prosperity and growth for that small church he left behind. During those years I became a member of this church, was a youth intern, the youth pastor for 4 years, got married, had two children and was a part of seeing the church move from a small run down building on Porter Way to the property we now reside in on Quail Lakes Drive and then expand the building to double its size in cooperation with my then employer, Brookside Christian High School. Pastor John Butrin took over the baton from Pastor Kraft and then passed it on to Pastor Chan Keith. It was a season of great growth & excitement for the church.
When he returned to pastor our church in 1993 he got to “ride the wave” of growth and blessings for awhile and then things got tough…moral failures of staff, poor financial decisions, conflict between members, anger, law suits, negative press and more seemed to plague the church and its members over the years and took its toll on many causing them to leave the church. However despite it all great things happened as well…many people were saved during his tenure as pastor, the spirit of worship always prevailed over the services, his openness and encouragement of the gifts of the Spirit allowed many to experience the miraculous and others to step out in faith and begin ministries of their own.
Personally he has added value to my life in many many ways.
- He always had a kind word and a smile for me
- His life of godly living & purity was a fine example to me and my family
- He was always there to listen to problems and pray you through, never claiming to have all the answers or a solution
- He was humble (a character quality sadly lacking in many leaders today) & always approachable
- He loved the Lord and His church and that is contagious
- He dedicated 6 of my children to the Lord!
There are hundreds of believers throughout this area and beyond whose lives were touched while attending Lakeview Assembly under Pastor Kraft’s leadership who should be there tonight to honor him and yet….. chances are they won’t be in attendance. They will either not be aware of this service or perhaps be busy elsewhere or even ministering at other churches and unable to attend. Some will be too busy or others just plain not interested in honoring this man. (as anyone who has been in ministry for any length of time knows there are always those who just do not like the pastor or leader and let their feelings lead them instead of obeying God’s word to honor them…ouch…sorry if I stepped on your toes!) Many will think kind thoughts or say a prayer of thanksgiving but will not actually take the time or energy to “overwhelm them with love & appreciation”. Unfortunately this seems to be the case at most churches across the country, a lack of love and appreciation for those in the ministry. More often we are quicker with our criticism and complaints than we are with our love & appreciation. And sadly we often wait until someone is gone before we share our words of thankfulness and love.
My hope & prayer is that everyone reading this blog will take the time to share their appreciation & love in an overwhelming way to their current pastor as well as previous pastors or leaders of ministries that have served them. And not just the “perfect pastors” or the ones you particularly liked or “clicked with” or always agreed with, but each one who has led or served you in ministry. They have all helped in different ways to move you closer to the Lord. Overwhelm them today!