Right Turn

One of the things I love most about being a pastor is the chance to be involved with people at the most pivotal moments of their life. I get to do premarital counseling with couples who are at the front porch of their life together as a family. I get to do their weddings, and pray for their children just hours after they're born. I get to baptize those same children, and visit the parents when they're in the hospital. I get to counsel people during the difficult times of marriage, and celebrate with them during the exciting times. And then I'm often present shortly after people step from this life to the next.

Often being a pastor is extremely difficult, because you're helping people navigate through turbulent water and there isn't much room for error. There's a high stress level, but also a high excitement level because I'm getting to work on the front lines - right where God is working.

Most of the time, pastors are tasked with walking people through these times individually. But every once in a while you have to walk with the entire church through a difficult time. Sometimes it is a result of a national event (September 11th comes to mind), but sometimes it is something that is unique to each pastor's individual church.

Last night, one of the heroes of McKinney Church - our retired Executive Pastor Bill Kilgore - suddenly and unexpectedly stepped from this life to the next. Since it was so sudden, it will be difficult to get word out prior to Sunday. Yet his life touched the lives of thousands of people at McKinney Church and around Fort Worth. Guess who's preaching on Sunday morning?!

Bill was a significant and beloved enough leader here at McKinney that to fail to say anything about his death on Sunday would be completely irresponsible. But, it would also be irresponsible to turn the service on Sunday morning into a memorial service (Add this to my list of things they never taught us how to do in seminary).

I'm fortunate this week because the passage I'm preaching from lends itself to a mention of Bill's life. We're talking about Acts 20:13-38 where Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian Elders, and passes his legacy on to them. The parallels are hard to miss. It could have been more difficult - I have a friend who was scheduled to preach on Hell the Sunday after September 11th.

I know several of you who read this blog are pastors. Has this kind of thing ever happened to you? How did you make the decision of whether or not to take a right turn with your sermon?


The Kinley's said...

I am proud of you for taking this announcement on Sunday to heart. I only knew him for a short time but he touched my life deeply in that time. I am in shock that God would be finished with Bill's time here, but at the same time I am rejoicing because I know he is celebrating at the feet of Jesus! I will be praying for you this Sunday!