Month: April 2019

As though the sky was about to fall

A middle-ager tells what it’s like to have that last heart attack and then be surprised with the gift of more life

“I responded to the Albuquerque challenge as though the sky was about to fall. A sense of urgency dictated my schedule.”

The above excerpt is a great example of why the book Who’s Calling My Name? riveted my attention and prompted both this article and its title. My subtitle options are “Minister, Pace Thyself” and “Worker, Pace Thyself.” This article is about those in vocational ministry (and those who support them, those who are led by them), but it applies equally to folks not in any of those categories.

During my second read through of Buchanan’s 154-page account of a pastoral ministry cut short due to heart disease, the summary message “pace yourself” rose to the top and helps to explain why the following information is both universal and timeless.

But, first, why have I become so enthralled with a somewhat obscure 1977 nonfiction title by Broadman Press (which imprint was for decades perhaps the most recognizable publishing name within Southern Baptist circles – now known as B&H Publishing Group)? The primary reason: the author, Jerreal B. Buchanan, was a family friend, a ministry colleague of my father. Mr. Buchanan was a favorite with us three children. He preached revival services at our church and visited in our home.

Until I read Who’s Calling My Name? a few weeks ago, I was not aware of all the places he served. I only remembered the Buchanans living in Durham, North Carolina. That is where we visited in their home on at least one occasion. My memories are of a brick, one-level suburban home with a large front yard boasting an ample supply of tall pine trees (and of their fallen needles). I remember window drapes in a cantaloupe shade of orange.

My knowledge of Mr. Buchanan’s health issues, as well as of his diverse ministry, was very limited until I read his book. I suppose in my late teens and early adulthood (his book came out when I was 17), I just wasn’t particularly interested. Now, I am very thankful to have reconnected with this volume that stayed on my parents’ book shelf so many years.

My father was a pastor his entire career. I am not in the pastoral ministry, but I did receive a seminary education before serving within the Southern Baptist denomination under various hats, both full-time and part-time, from 1985 to 2019. However, it is my present role as a church member that I want most to bring under the well-aimed scrutiny of Mr. Buchanan’s memoir. Specifically, I want to be very sure I am not behaving as a Mr. Sullen Saint, a Mr. Pythagoras, or a Miss Perfect English. I never want to belong to a church that would earn the reputation of “being rough on pastors.” Do you? That phrase haunts me! Rough on pastors? God forbid.

Perhaps boosted by my recent fourteen-plus years serving in a support capacity on staff at two different churches, I want to step up my “staff appreciation” because of having read this book. That phrase encompasses a little more than it might seem to do at first glance. Pans of homemade cinnamon rolls delivered to the church office are on my “do soon” list, yes, but stepped-up support of my church staff also calls me to undertake frequent, regular intercession for them and for their families. In larger churches, especially if we have not belonged to them our entire lives, we may not even have met all of the staff and certainly not all of their spouses and children. That is why I made a “cheat sheet” a few weeks ago so I can pray for more of these individuals by name. And, if there are some volunteer tasks here and there that align with my schedule of free time, I intend to find out what those are and how to make a meaningful contribution that way.

That takes care of possible responses that are others-directed. The flip side is to look inward. Like Jerreal B. Buchanan, I have the “Type A” personality. Like him, I’ve often judged that there were not enough hours in one day for all that deserved to be done right away. Unlike Mr. Buchanan, I have never suffered high cholesterol or heart attack. However, a misguided sense of “sky about to fall” urgency landed me in the emergency room with an anxiety attack after I’d worked too many hours in a row over the New Year 2019 holiday as the culmination of a July-start marathon effort to get my two novels “perfect” and to market as soon as possible or without dying before meeting goal.

I definitely get the “sense of urgency” part of this man’s story. That angle may or may not speak to you. But this quote from page 12 should apply to all of us: “Because I am a minister, I must write from a minister’s point of view. However, I have written this book in the hope that it will be of value to a larger community. I hope each reader can make a helpful application to his own life and vocation and will discipline himself accordingly.”

This minister was a great man highly esteemed by my family. He had a farmer’s roots, an impressive build, an engaging personality, a deeply-caring heart, an unwavering Christian commitment, a willingness to serve where called, and a listening spirit which sought and heard God’s voice.

I cannot here hope to paint the picture a reader of Who’s Calling My Name? will get firsthand. So, if some of the following items pique your interest (whether you work in a church-related vocation or not), then I invite you to get a copy of Who’s Calling My Name? and glean from it, directly, all that Mr. Buchanan’s endeavors, mistakes, challenges, difficult parishioners, joys and achievements have to teach. His poignant, detailed, historic accounts of “pioneer” Baptist work in Chicago and in New York will tug at you. His honest portraits of “tension-building” church member types may convict you. Mr. Buchanan was a saint among saints in my book. His story deserves the opportunity to influence more and more people.

  • too-busy parent
  • vocational shock
  • “I need to make every moment count for God.”
  • the success disease
  • baptism of fire
  • imperfect serving the imperfect
  • “I found more work to do than I ever dreamed would be required of me.”
  • “I did not take all my vacation time.”
  • measuring accomplishment by numbers
  • indispensable complex
  • spreading my ministry too thin
  • “I took on too much.”
  • longing for leisure
  • a tendency to make mountains of mole hills
  • “While I tried to please one person, another was angered.”
  • “I gave people the impression I was in a hurry.”
  • “Thoughts have an immediate effect on some part of the body.”
  • remaining for a purpose
  • “being useful without working oneself to death”
  • “More important than having things to live with is to have a purpose to live for.”
  • “I cannot solve every problem every day.”
  • “One cannot accept every opportunity.”

“My blueprint for life and the ministerial mold I occupied for twenty-five years were not one and the same. My blueprint for life is the life of Christ. To live by his principles, to serve even if I do not have a church, to commune daily with the heavenly Father, are the prescriptions of my blueprint. After I rediscovered this set of drawings for my life, I returned to living one day at a time.” (p.128)

One final quote (p.130):
“God solves most of our problems while we sleep. Those few he leaves for us to solve frequently respond to our efforts after they have been soaked overnight, or for a week, or for a month. The reason unsolved problems used to rob me of so much sleep is that I did not want to let them soak. If I left one for the next day, I wanted it to yield the first thing in the morning. Problems don’t always yield the very next day. If they don’t, I walk around them and try to enjoy the rest of the day.”