In the early years of church history here in the U.S., a community might see a different preacher each week; one Sunday a Baptist, the next a Methodist, Presbyterian, or just a man on horseback with a bible in his saddlebags and a sermon on his lips. Old-timers in the rural Kaufman County church I once pastored shared their parent’s, and grandparent’s passed along memories of those circuit riders (as they came to be known) galloping up to the one room building that served as a schoolhouse, community gathering spot, and the Sunday go to meeting place. I so enjoyed walking alongside those old farmers down garden rows picking a mess of peas and listening to those stories. Their days on earth are over, but their memories live on in mine.
When Gaby and I began attending the Community Life Church in Forney, Texas it wasn’t anything at all like that old framed church house I pastored about 20 miles east or any other church I had set foot in. There were no hymnals to sing from, no pulpit for the preacher to preach from; they didn’t pass an offering plate, and the pastor didn’t look at all like a pastor, he wore jeans and a pullover. Our daughter told us the environment was relaxed, but a coffee bar with donuts – what had I gotten myself into? And with no altar call at the end of the service, what in the world was the world coming too?
If only out of curiosity or perhaps to be sure I hadn’t just dreamed it, we found ourselves westbound on US-80 headed back for round two the next Sunday.
Grabbing a cup of Joe and a donut (yes, I did), we found a seat and buckled up. Having been a longtime fan of progressive Christian music (even when it was a bit taboo) the worship team doing Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman music was good by me. Had they busted out with a little Petra or Stryper, I would have sung along. The music was great, and I was looking forward to hearing that baldheaded pastor continue the sermon series he had started the week prior. It was well presented, informative and inspiring, enough so that I was able to do a mental write-off of his unpastoral-like attire and just listen to what he had to say, but who is this dragging a small table and stool to center stage?
He introduced himself as Randy something. “Randy who? I don’t care; I want to hear the bald guy. I came specifically to hear part two in the series from the bald guy, not a visiting preacher.” It turns out he wasn’t a visiting preacher, but when he referred to himself as a co-pastor of the church, I thought to myself, “nice title for the assistant, maybe he won’t mess the series up too badly.” How quickly though I found myself hanging onto his every word. Like the week before, I was captivated, a sponge soaking up the warmth of the Son. He was funny too, using a lot of humor to convey the points he wanted to make.
The sermon series continued our third week in attendance but with yet another man, co-pastor Paul McDill. Coming on the heels of the previous two weeks I thought this three-pastor model is weird but after being spellbound by Paul’s exhilarating message, and noting the seamless flow of a sermon series split between three pastors I thought, “they’re certainly in sync, they just might have something here. After all, having two campuses (Forney and Mesquite), you would need more than one pastor to keep the bases covered.”
Three years later the church would plant two additional campuses within the area, and the three co-pastors would rotate between them, much like the circuit riders of old. Although it didn’t make a lot of sense to me early on (a more logical approach being one man overseeing and serving each campus, I thought), the second Sunday at the new Kaufman campus, co-pastor David Griffin (the bald guy) had the Conn. Having invited friends living in the area to give c|Life Kaufman a try, Gaby and I were there to greet them. Randy Wade was the teaching pastor in week one, so when David stood to introduce himself, his was a face new to many. I wondered, were the people thinking somewhat as I had thought three years earlier? “What’s going on? Who is this? Where’s the funny guy, the guy with hair? I came back to hear him.”
David began with an intro that (in brief) went something like this. “You heard from Randy last week; you get me today. If you don’t like my preaching, none to worry, there’ll be someone else here next week.” Then (in my words) he offered this explanation.
Why do we do it this way? We want you to come to c|Life not because of a man, other than the man Jesus. That your faith does not rest in or rely on a preacher, but in Christ; that’s what is important, that’s our objective, the reason why.
As strange to me as the co-pastor model was at first (three men sharing coequally), I had come to terms with it years earlier, we loved our church. But it wasn’t until that Sunday morning that I fully understood the reasoning, and it made perfect sense.
“One man plants, another man waters, but it is God who gives the increase.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:6
Keep riding the circuit guys; I will pray you never develop saddle sores.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ~ Acts 4:12