Posted by: Taylor | March 13, 2007

The Day I Became A Pastor

John & Lee RushtonThis article is lovingly dedicated to the memory of my friend John Rushton and to his dear wife Lee.  Lee, you and John suffered much these past four years, but never forget, God has walked this road with you, and God will lead you home.  I love you, and continue to pray for you daily.

Your friend & pastor,

Taylor

Note to article:  This article was written in January, 2007.  Since then, my friend John has past away.  Please remember Lee in your prayers. 

I was called on August 8th, 1988.  But, it wasn’t until the fall of 2004 that I became a pastor.

November 2002, my family and I began to serve our first church as pastor.  I had served in various places, doing various things (youth pastor, collegiate pastor, small group pastor), but never “the pastor.”  Antioch Baptist is a rural church averaging about 75 in worship.  It is located six miles outside of Lafayette in Chambers County, Alabama. 

My family and I lived across the street in a small brick home with white trim, a carport, water pump, and a storage building.  Rolling hills, cow pastures, and the occasional wild turkey painted the view with grace as the pines grew tall and nothing but the azure sky is seen against the green of the trees. 

Small communities are amazing.  If you drive past them on your way to another place, they draw no more attention than a speck of dust as it drifts through your home.  But, if you take a moment, focus a little, you can see that speck not drifting, but dancing.  It glides on the currents, dipping, diving, soaring, and then it is out of sight.  Small towns too have their own cadence their own waltz.   

Lafayette is no different.  A quick drive past it and you would never give it a moments notice.  But, discovering that tempo, learning the dance, the language, the ritual is more important than having a perfectly prepared sermon.  People, not preaching creates the rhythm. 

I first discovered this on a rainy day in March of 2003.  The phone rang.  Angela my wife answered.  I heard her saying, “Okay?  Thank you?”  Then she entered my office to tell me that one of the couples in the church was coming to watch the kids so we could go to the volunteer fire department’s spring bar-b-que.

Angela was shocked.  “I guess we need to go,” she said.

“I still have at least two hours of work to do.  I don’t have time to go.”

“They’ll be here is about ten minutes!”

We quickly changed our clothes, greeted the kind couple a few minutes later, and told our three and two year old we would be back in a few hours.  In a space of twelve minutes, we had gone from doing laundry and sermon prep to being dignitaries on a mission of community involvement.

We were stunned.  We weren’t use to such things.  Weekends for us had always been family time.  But here we were, going to the bar-b-que.  And, I’m so thankful we did because it was on that rainy day in March that I learned an important lesson about community.  People want to see you before they want to hear you.  They want to see you in their home, at the local school meetings, and involved in their community.  They want to see the sermon in the flesh.

The lesson I learned that day prepared me to become a pastor.  I was already called pastor, but pastoring is kind of like sanctification, it’s an ongoing process.  Being called pastor is one thing.  Being a pastor is another.  You can’t be something you’ve never done.  Therefore, God was shaping me to be a pastor.

Antioch Baptist ChurchI continued to serve God and our little community for the next year and a half.  In this time, I performed my first funeral, wedding, and baptism.  I visited with the sick, the lost, and the shut-in.  I oversaw business meetings, deacon meetings, and staff meetings.  I preached through the Sermon on the Mount on Sunday mornings and Philippians on Sunday nights. I did everything a pastor is called to do, and with God’s grace, I served Him well.

Then in the fall of 2004 something happened.  I was visiting one of our deacons and his wife.  John had had open-heart surgery in the spring of 2003.  During surgery, John suffered a massive stroke.  He spent almost an entire year in recovery at various facilities throughout the Southeast.

His condition never truly improved.  Lee, his wife, brought him home after almost a year of therapy.  An addition to the house was added to create a space where she could better manage him.  She quickly learned how to care for him.  Bathing, shaving, changing his clothes took the place of long walks in the woods and planning for their retirement years.

It was a Tuesday morning about 10.  I had been out visiting other shut-ins and I was down to my last two, John and Mrs. Mildred.  John was first on the way.  When I arrived, Lee was very upset.  The home health nurse had not come on Monday nor would she be there today.  John had not had a bath since Saturday and she was concerned he was starting to get sores.

Lee was very capable of caring for John, but it was difficult to bath him alone.  He only weighed 140 or 50 pounds by then, but it was all dead weight.  Besides, He did not like you messing with him, and he would cuss at you and try to hit you with his good arm (most all stroke patients tend to act this way even if they happened to be a kind and gentle person before the stroke).

As I entered, Lee looked at me with tears and said, “Brother Taylor, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.  He needs bathing, but I just can’t by myself, and home health won’t be here ‘til Thursday!”  I thought hard for a moment. Then I offered my assistance.

I said I would help move him and hold him to make sure he did not hit her.  So, we started the bath.  John was not happy.  First, he was upset it had been so long since his last bath.  Then, he was mad that Lee needed my help.

He cussed me out.  He told Lee he hated her, and that I was a lousy preacher, and to get the hell out.  He tried hitting Lee and then me.  We worked quickly, and in about eight minutes we were done.  We then dressed him and shaved him.  By now, John started to calm down.  He was happy to feel fresh.  Then he cried, apologizing for trying to hurt Lee and me.  We told him it was alright and that he needed to learn to control himself.  He promised he would try.  He told us he loved us, and thanked us for bathing and shaving him.  Five minutes later, he was asleep.

Lee and I cleaned up and left the room so John could sleep without being disturbed by our conversation.  Once I reach the next room, I looked to see Lee at the kitchen table in tears again.

“I can’t do it.  I can’t do it anymore!  Oh, please…”

Lee looked up with tears streaming down.  “Brother Taylor, thank you.  Thank you for being my pastor.  I could not have done that today without you.”

I prayed with Lee, talked a little more, and then left for my last visit.  I had walk into their home a man doing pastoral things.  I walked out a pastor.

John Rushton

John past away this Monday, March 12th, 2007.  This picture was taken the last time my family and I visited John.  He was a good friend and husband.  He will be dearly missed.

Copyright © January 2007 by Taylor W. Kendrick 

All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

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Responses

  1. Awesome story. Thanks for sharing it. Many of us would just have provided her with platitudes and counseling rather than getting our hands dirty I doubt :(. Blessings, TKR

  2. Thanks for commenting TKR. The longer I live the more I believe the saying from Saint Fransis, “Preach always, and sometimes use words.” Be blessed!


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