Jerry knocked on the door. Inside, he saw an older man, packing books into boxes. Slowly, the man turned around and smiled.
“Jerry, come in. It’s great to see you.”
“Hello, Dr. Riley. It’s good to see you, too.”
“I’m almost finished here. Sit down. Let’s talk while I pack.”
Jerry sat down and looked around. He could hardly believe it; he hadn’t hoped for a church like this, with his first assignment. Most of his classmates were starting out as youth pastors or assistant pastors. Yet, here he was: the pastor of this country church.
Jerry had been amazed when he’d gotten the call. Dr. Riley had been one of his favorite lecturers. “Dr. Riley…” he began.
“You want to know why I chose you for this job, don’t you.”
“Well, yes. I’ve only just graduated. Why me?”
Dr. Riley asked, “Jerry, do you remember our first class together?”
“Sure - it was Old Testament.”
“What do you think was the most important thing you learned there?”
“Well, the Old Testament has stories I’ve heard since I was a kid. Anyone can rattle off facts or look them up in a concordance. But those things aren’t important if we don’t let the Spirit show us what those words mean, to us, today.”
“Yes, that’s right. And that’s why I chose you to be the pastor of this church.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Come with me a minute, Jerry.” The older man walked out the study door and continued out the front door of the church. He stopped at the doorway. “What do you see here?”
Jerry swept his eyes down the main street of the little town. Across the street was a grocery store. Downtown consisted of a bank, a barber shop, the post office and the police station. Jerry saw a few houses in the distance, and rolling hills in the background. It seemed like a quiet country town. He said this to Dr. Riley, but the older man shook his head.
“This is a great town, Jerry, and there’s much good here. Many in this town attend this church, and that’s good, too. Most of our church members try to follow our Lord to the best of their ability – and of course that’s good. But you’ll need to see beyond that.”
“If you get caught up in the idyllic appearance of this town – or of the members of this church - and base your approach on that, you might decide you don’t need to do much, to challenge these people. But God has much to do in these lives – and He needs someone who knows that only His Spirit can guide them to His best purpose. I remembered how you wouldn’t rest, in class, until you found the most meaning in each passage. That’s what’s needed, here.”
“Jerry, I’m not retiring because the Lord’s work has ended in this town. The Lord’s work won’t be done here, or in any town, until He returns. But my own work is done here, and I’m moving to the next chapter of my life. I believe that this church needs a new pair of eyes, to see the next chapter of its life.”
Jerry was humbled. He saw the challenge of the unknown, and he couldn’t even guess what he didn’t yet know. “Where will you go, Doctor Riley?”
“Oh, vacation for a few weeks, and then God will lead me from there. He grinned at the younger man and clapped him on the shoulder. “Will you give me a hand with those boxes, son?”
Jerry walked back into the office and hefted two cartons. He and Dr. Riley walked to his car and began loading them into the back seat. As they did, the secretary called out to them: “Hey, Pastor, John Crane needs you to come and pray with him. He’s in the hospital for another round of chemo.”
Dr. Riley sighed. “Oh, poor John; I was hoping he’d stay in remission awhile.” He looked over at Jerry. “Well, son, she said he wants the pastor. That’s you.”
Jerry was startled. “Yes, I guess it is.”
“Go ahead inside. Megan will give you John’s address and directions- and God will give you the words. Are you ready, son?”
“No, Dr. Riley. But He is. So I’ll go.”
Dr. Riley walked to the car and opened the door. “Then I’d better go, too – wherever God sends me next. May God go with you, Jerry.”
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