Pastoral Recognition 2021

Relationships Are The Key

The Great Lakes conference recognizes and celebrates their pastors years of service annually. This year, we have 3 pastors who have hit significant milestones. I was blessed to talk with Pastors Lewis Johnston, Paul Rutledge, and Director Lance Finley, and each of these leaders allowed me to mine their wisdom with a few targeted questions. As we come to the end of COVID restrictions, many leaders may be feeling disillusioned or exhausted with their ministries. Yet, I walked away from each of these conversations feeling more encouraged and more refreshed. Provided you take the time to read their responses, I believe you will too. The combined knowledge base of these 3 church leaders represents a century of wisdom gained by success, failure, and everything else on that spectrum. We honor their time in ministry by listening to them, and learning from them. Try and see if you can find where these 3 leaders were in harmonious agreement. – Jacob Clagg

Pastors Being Recognized

Lewis Johnston50 Years
Paul Rutledge25 Years
Lance Finley25 Years


After so many years, you certainly had times of struggle, how did you manage to stick with it for so long? 

Paul Rutledge – “Number 1 is my wife. My wife has just been very supportive. My wife can see things I don’t see, she can get me to think ways I don’t think. I really think God speaks through pastors’ wives and spouses.

The other thing is the Holy spirit working through people in the congregation. Earl Mills, Dave Green, Lance Finley, people in leadership, it’s amazing how they can have the right words of encouragement or the right words of advice. I don’t think God puts people in your path for no reason.”

Lance Finley – “I have been abundantly blessed with folks in my life, relationships that span decades, who aren’t necessarily impressed or intimated by me, but they love me. We’ve done enough time [together] that they feel the freedom to speak into my life, and I’ve given them that permission to tell me what I’m off the rails. That alone is huge. I get the sense that many of my peers in ministry that they feel more isolated ad lonely. That’s not been my experience. There are relationships that I’ve had long years of developing…. I have an abundance of folks who help me understand my part in this. [Who] help me understand what my critics are saying, what I need to own and what I need to ignore.”


How do you think the years of service changed you? How are you different now then when you began your pastoral journey?

Lewis Johnston – Through the years, as I’ve gotten older, realized how much I really didn’t know. And that, to me, no matter what, it helped me to take things very serious… Through some of the experiences I’ve had at churches, I’ve grown closer to the Lord. I have found a peace there, in my own life. And, I have learned a lot in serving churches and from churches. They’ve been good teachers.

Lance Finley – “I was much more absorbed… we all have a lot of ‘people pleasing’ in us. I have felt much more freedom in my own skin. There are things that God has gifted me to do well. Others place expectations on all of us that we should be better at this or that. I can rest in Christ and know that he is going to love me. If he loves me, that makes all the difference. I wish it didn’t take me to my late 30’s or early 40’s to get that figured out. But it did.

I don’t have to be subject to the tyranny of everyone’s expectations or even my own. In my 20’s I was my own worst critic. I’m much freer from that. I know who I am in Christ now. I don’t have to beat myself up at every turn.”


After the struggles of Covid19, do you have any words of wisdom for pastors or church leaders who feel exhausted in their ministries?

Paul Rutledge – “It was freaky in March, but after that, it got easier. And granted, we were very fortunate, giving went up, people had no problem being away. I didn’t have anyone who was really nuts about it. The church takes on the personality of the pastor and I’m kind of laid back. We will figure it out (kind of thing). Covid19 became a time of refreshment rather than exhaustion. It reaffirmed the churches love for each other.
At least for rising sun, that time apart people really realized the connection that they had that was lost, and when it was reaffirmed, people were really excited to have it back. But in all the ministries that go on around here, not just Sunday morning.

I serve on church planting committee, camp Otyokwah, bible studies, etc. All that stopped. Then I realize I had time freed up… I could spend that time doing some soul refreshment, being away from people. Everyone’s lives stopped too! They can’t get into trouble! I heard God saying “instead of worrying about what you can’t do, why don’t you just focus on me and our relationship”. When we reopened, a lot of our external programming was ramping up, because of summer and COVID. So [during COVID] I could concentrate more on just relationships. I kind of miss that aspect of it. My calendar is starting to fill back up.”

Lewis Johnston – “Well I think we can get, sometimes, too busy for our own good.
There are times you get exhausted. You have to slow down a little bit, I found this through prayer with the Lord. Rev. Thompson… really helped me along. I had encouragement through other ministers, greatly. I never would have made it through. That’s what helped me to keep going. And I could always talk to them. We have good fellowship. I thank God for these people who helped me along the way. They encouraged me that it was worthwhile when I wasn’t sure.”