By Dan Hyun
My father passed away a year ago. It’s been a difficult year for our family, but in particular for my mother. Dad’s death wasn’t sudden or a complete surprise, but my mom’s transition to being a widow is something for which we were all unprepared.
Even in the midst of the darkest season of my family’s life, God has continually shown His kind mercy to us. And out of the many small and quiet gifts of grace the Lord has given us in this season, two in particular have stood out:
My mother’s church and her pastor.
Faithfully serving the “least of these”
Even before my dad became gravely ill, this pastor had warmly welcomed my parents into the church when they moved back into the area a few years ago. Though they were the oldest people in the congregation and didn’t have much to offer tangibly in terms of building the ministry, the pastor treated them with deep respect.
They were made to feel as if their presence meant everything to this small church. My folks believed it and they constantly shared with me how blessed they were to find this church.
When my father’s illness required more extensive treatment, I did my best to travel and help on the days my brother couldn’t get off work. Still, I experienced the helplessness of knowing I couldn’t be there as much as I wanted. In those moments, it comforted me to know my parents had a pastor who would rearrange his schedule to be at the house to physically help my dad into the car and drive him to treatment.
Since my dad passed, there haven’t been many sources of comfort for my mom. Even good things tend to serve as painful reminders that he’s no longer around. But there have been two continual healing balms for my mother:
Her church and her pastor.
Faithfully preaching the Word
This pastor and his family have surrounded my mom with love and shown me what it means to care for widows. This has included the pastor faithfully preaching solid sermons every week and his wife organizing fellowship meals every Sunday. It’s involved them having my mother in their house on holidays and taking her car to the shop when it needs repairs.
A few weeks ago, our family gathered for a first-year memorial service for my father. It was a small gathering for our family, but the pastor took that Saturday off from his job working on homes so that he could lead the service. It was a small reminder of the constant and sacrificial presence he’s provided for our family and my mother this past year.
With some embarrassment, these circumstances have also led me to reflect on how I may have viewed this pastor in the past. Even though he’s faithfully led the church for years, it hasn’t experienced much visible growth. Two dozen people makes for a big Sunday service.
I used to question if him leading the church was the best investment of Kingdom resources and his time. In a lot of ways, this church doesn’t look like a “successful” church—at least, not in how we typically measure success.
Faithfully loving people under his care
In spite of this, God has humbled me and let me see something I hadn’t noticed before. I now recognize a pastor who deeply loves the people God has placed under his care. This pastor loves his flock so much he’ll do whatever it takes to lead the church.
Though this church isn’t in a place to financially provide for this pastor, he works hard throughout the week to provide for his family and the ministry. His nights are filled with visitations as he cares for the community. Even though his schedule is full, he doesn’t scrimp on sermon preparation.
This pastor prepares for every week’s sermon as if he’ll be preaching to the most important people in the world. He also leads them to financially support missionaries around the globe even though the church budget is tight.
Realistically, the pastor doesn’t take a Sunday off. I’m not advocating this as a healthy practice, but he’s of a culture where you do whatever you need to do. He loves God and cares for God’s people.
Faithfully serving in the shadows
When I consider this man, it also deepens my respect and honor for the many like him all over the world. They may never have large budgets or tons of staff members. The churches they lead are often small enough to meet in one home. These pastors probably don’t have a significant following on social media and won’t be asked to speak at many conferences.
These pastors don’t even get to engage in fellowship with other pastors as much as they might like simply because those things often happen during the day when they need to be working. Their sacrifice is demonstrated in the vocational efforts they make outside of the church to follow the pastoral calling they love.
It’s rarely easy, but obedient faithfulness is beautiful.
If this describes you, know you’re appreciated! Those on social media may not know who you are, but your family knows you. Your church knows you. Maybe your neighbors know you.
And most importantly, God knows you. He sees all you do to honor Him. He loves you.
In this month of pastoral appreciation, I think of my mother’s pastor and so many others like him. I appreciate him and I appreciate you.
Dan Hyun (@villagedanhyun) is the husband to Judie, father of two precious girls, and lead pastor of The Village Church in Baltimore, Maryland.