ALEXANDRIA, La. -- As a seminary student, I was blessed to have a great pastor. When George Berger invited me to be a part of his staff, I didn't realize how God was going to use him to prepare me for ministry.
Every Sunday, George forced me to stand before the congregation and read the Scripture passage. My voice was maturing, so it cracked and made all kinds of sounds. The congregation politely laughed with me as I stumbled over the wording of the King James Version week after week. George and the kind folks in the church would encourage me just enough to get me back up there the next Sunday.
George gave me opportunities to preach, even though I struggled to communicate the Gospel clearly. Jo Ann, his wife, always made me feel like she just heard Billy Graham after my meager efforts to share God's Word.
When I accepted my first pastorate, he endured endless phone calls that often began, "Dr. Berger how do I...."
Shortly after arriving at this first church, Billy Hanberry, a retired businessman who was a member of another congregation, took me under his wing. Billy's son, Scott, was our part-time youth minister so Billy knew I had a passion to see people come to faith in Jesus. He invited me to join him on Thursdays at a nearby prison to do personal evangelism in the lock-down.
I was scared to death the first time those prison gates clanked shut, but Billy patted me on the back and pushed me forward. He let me observe him for a few visits and then he sent me down a row of cells on my own. We led several men to faith in Christ. I was so excited I couldn't sleep that night.
Week after week, Billy would pick me up for the 40-minute drive to the prison. He would listen to my challenges and triumphs in ministry. Then he would give me nuggets of godly advice and encouragement. When we would stop at the hamburger shop for a late lunch, he'd pray for me and mention each of my needs to our Father.
I've never felt alone or isolated in ministry because of pastors like George or laymen like Billy. When I needed a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, men like these two were near.
There are pastors who are struggling in our cities. Men who need someone to come alongside them. They need encouragement or maybe even some advice from a more seasoned servant of the Lord. Maybe a young pastor could use your extra copies of commentaries or even the latest devotional book because his small church can't provide these kinds of helps. Many of our state conventions are starting initiatives to plug pastors into other pastors through mentoring relationships.
Two great ministry tools I discovered in evangelism are a cup of coffee and a listening ear. Both have served me well as a seeker is searching for a relationship with the Lord. I'm learning the same tools come in handy when sitting with a discouraged pastor as he struggles to do the work of an evangelist.During October, Pastor Appreciation Month, maybe God would burden you to invest into the life of another struggling pastor. I am thankful someone cared enough to invest in me.
Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention's evangelism & church growth team.
© Copyright 2007 Baptist Press. Used with permission