Out of my ongoing experience I have written elsewhere about what this means for the pastor/preacher. Because I know that such mutual caring within a whole fellowship will not happen naturally. I believe that much depends on pastors' personal qualities, their ethos - the way they model Christian life by living within community. If they do not demonstrate love, caring, and hospitality it becomes less likely that the rest of the fellowship can picture such possibilities. Closed, apparently uncaring leaders will not develop open caring fellowships no matter how eloquent their preaching. Of course, the Holy Spirit works through many others in leadership when they let him, but those called full-time to be under-Shepherds have immense responsibility in Christ's name. That's why Ron was so effective among us.
In the most recent Baptists Together magazine I was thrilled to see a picture of John Bunyan Baptist Church in Cowley, Oxford. It was my student pastorate. Michael Bochenski became minister there later and in the magazine he wrote a piece called 'A Taste of Heaven' about integrating members of the Windrush generation into a traditional church. Let me quote from a paragraph or two:
'When you show an interest in people they will show an interest in you and the church', a wise pastoral tutor had said to us all in College. They were words I never forgot. Visiting and praying with people in their homes has long been the best way I know to see churches begin to grow again. There is no easy alternative to the slow patient building up of relationships. So when a few more West Indian Christians began to turn up at Sunday worship I made it a priority to follow them up. A phase of significant church growth began....... Occasionally in ministry there are times when heaven clearly touches earth. As the Baptist faith community in Cowley grew - we experienced many baptisms during the seven years I ministered there - so did our commitment to the community around us.I thank God for Ron who lived out the cost and for Michael and for all Christian leaders who truly care so that others might truly care too.
You and Carol have lived this out in your lives. You are a blessing to us and others I know.
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