At the 2020 Conference Sessions (happening on October 3rd, 2020) the Great Lakes Conference will be recognizing some of it’s pastors for their long years of service. In celebration of their tenure, we thought it prudent to also ask these pastors to share some of their wisdom and insight. The breadth and depth of their experience is truly difficult to fathom, especially for a 27 year old man like myself. The combined service of these pastors is an astonishing 230 years! If we counted 230 years back that would put us at 1790 A.D. (C.E.). That is 40 years more combined experience than the Church of God General Conference is old (1830) and 7 years older than John Winebrenner himself. Their service has not been easy, and their lives, like all of ours, have had both joys and challenges. One way in which the GLC can honor it’s pastors is to quietly listen to their experiences, and to learn from their hard fought knowledge. We do this in hopes of learning to better support our pastors and also to build up the institutional memory of the GLC. It was an honor to speak with each of these pastors, and I hope you are blessed by reading their words as I was hearing them. – Jacob Clagg
Pastors Being Recognized
After so many years, you certainly had times of struggle, how did you manage to stick with it for so long?
Jim Bear – “A very strong faithful wife who supports me. In those times of discouragement and trial/ She has been by my side, a wonderful Christian advisor. The call in my life came early, I didn’t respond to that call until I was 40 years old. The urgency to stay the course has been important to me. My call from God has been that strong source of power to continue throughout whatever. The third thing is that I just don’t think I would like to do anything else. I have enjoyed my walk with him, and it has taken me places I would never anticipated I would go in ministry. I have gotten involved in the local, state, and regional level over 25 years and that has been very rewarding.”
Lloyd Harlan – “I think it’s the commitment that I made. The understanding of the scripture, this is a lifelong commitment, you’re not in it just for the moment. For the long haul. I love the lord and I wanted to serve him. I appreciated all that he did for me, and I could never fully repay him.”
Morris Now – “I had a kind of difficult time in the pastorate because I had 6 children, for the most part could not afford to be a minister. I had to look for other work, besides three churches in Penn, when Dr. Fox came to me, I took it. When the Y came to me, I took it, When the county came to me I took it. Not because I wanted to do secular work necessarily, I had 6 kids they take support. Most of the churches were not paying the kind of salaries that I really needed. I did not stop doing Christian work… I served as a supply pastor in probably 50% of churches in Ohio in the last 50 years. For the last 18 years I was the director of human services in Mercer county (Welfare services). Worked for 14 Years in the YMCA, 2 year spent as director of admission of UF. I was a Christian in my secular work. Taking care of people is a Christian profession.”
How do you think the years of service changed you? How are you different now then when you began your pastoral journey?
Rick Mason – “Obviously you grow and mature. You learn to sort out those things that are important and critical. Chuck Swindoll is always saying keep the main thing the main thing. That would be my summary, you grow in faith, you mature. You learn which things are worth fighting for. Choose your battles. I think over the years, at this point of life, finding myself not so quick to become bothered by things that won’t make a difference in the long run but keep focused on what matters today and what is going to make the difference for the long future. I’m 72 years old and I still don’t know what I’m doing. When you think you know something. You find you know nothing as you ought to know.”
Tim Eding – “I would like to think that I am the same person today that I was when I began ministry. Obviously, I was very naïve when I began—very care free and vibrant in how I approach all things. I’d like to think that I continue to have vibrancy in ministry. I continue to awaken each day excited about what I get to do and what God may do through me. As I’ve aged through the years, I would like to think that I picked up at least a small amount of wisdom that allows me to be effective in my work. I certainly am more efficient and have a great handle on time management. One of the greatest honors that I ever had was the opportunity to be under the mentorship of Dr. George Weaver after he retired as president of Winebrenner Seminary while I was in Reynoldsburg. He would meet me once a month and mentor me in spiritual discipline and was a great source of encouragement to my ministry. I can say that most of the daily spiritual discipline that I enjoy today was the result of how Dr. Weaver guided me in creating these disciplines in my life. I am still amazed that he took the time to give me that particular guidance then. My neurological issues that came on me nearly 20 years ago has caused me to physically slow down (more so than I desire). It’s even created a shift in my leadership with the great people of the church I am now serving. Before it was so easy to take the lead and charge up whatever “hill’ we as a church may desire to take. Now I am blessed to have many leaders—young and older alike—to lead the charge. My leadership has been more from “behind” and providing the encouragement and support as leaders are trained and set forth to minister.”
Lloyd Harlan – “Oh my. I’m sure the one thing that doesn’t change is change itself. I’ve appreciated things about my early ministry, but it’s always good to see some changes. Some are good, some are not so good. But we have to show forth the love of Christ external circumstances are. I suppose that change that’s been made in me, as you experience new things, it helps you grow, more understanding of people around you. You come to realize that there is a reason for everything, so if you plant good seed, you’ll get better results. God doesn’t change, it’s the world, or us that changes.”
Any words of wisdom for pastors young and old who aspire to a long life of service?
Jim Bear – “Yes. A word of wisdom to an individual going into ministry. Follow your heart. I’m not a logical thinker, but I do follow my heart. My wife is, and she helps me in the details. I just spoke to a young pastor, and he is worried about the congregation. I said look “You have a call, follow your heart and really pray to know God’s guidance for you. Spend time with him, find quiet time together.” Its exceptionally hard to do, especially for bi-vocational pastors. I’ve been bi-vocational for nearly 20 years. My heart has always been true so long as I am staying in the guidance of the word of God, not trying to do it on my own. Follow your heart, whatever God has laid on your heart for ministry. There is a place for both types of ministry. God uses the Timothys and the Moses and the Abrahams. Age is not anything that God considers to be favorable or detrimental to ministry.“
Tim Eding – “Quite frankly, I think this question is the easiest of all. I believe the key to a long and successful pastorate are two words. Love and Transparency. I do my very best to look at the people I have served over the past 40 years in the same way that Jesus looks at every one of them: with total love. The other word of wisdom I might offer is to not take oneself so seriously or pretend to be someone that you are not. I am not afraid to let the people that I serve know of my imperfections and my failures. My struggle at walking with the Lord is just as real as anyone else. For me to pretend that I have it all together spiritually is a lie and the people I serve need to know where I fall short. I am not above using my own life as a sermon illustration in my messages when I have messed up. I want people to see me as one who is saved by the grace of God and that I am not deserving of this grace. I think it makes me very relatable and it has helped me with the longevity I have had in all of the churches I have served.”
Rick Mason – “Number 1, make sure you spend time in the word for the purpose of growth, not just for ministry. Within the pastorate we have a tendency to spend time in the scripture to prepare sermons. We have a tendency to lose fervor and love for Christ. Always make your family and your marriage top priorities. Never allow the church to become your mistress. It’s really never about you. It’s always about the kingdom of Christ first. It’s about the places he gives you to serve second, and about you third. I would encourage every young pastor, if they are married, to have getaway time. Keep your marriage fresh. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, taking care of yourself, your family, spending time alone. Try to do some kind of self improvement seminar once a year. I do something for my wife to get away, and then do something for myself personally. Seasoned pastors have become complacent or burnt out and that is a poison to your soul. Be excited about the people God has given to you to minister.”