Ministering in a small country church can be fun, challenging and certainly very interesting. I know you can say that about any church ministry, but the small church has some nuances that are unique and that do not avail themselves to my brothers in larger churches.
Brother Wilbur (not his real name) is an elderly, widower gentleman that loves coming to church and being around all his friends. He especially loves the worship service. Wilbur isn’t gifted at all with musical talent, but he loves to sing. His singing would remind one more of a hungry alley cat than a singer. But it is a “joyful noise“ and it sounds wonderful. He sits on the end of the pew beside the pianist. Because he doesn’t hear very well he sings a tad loud. Our pianist has told me that it is very difficult for her to concentrate on the music with Wilbur’s cat calls in her right ear. Wilbur so enjoys the music he sometimes continues to enjoy the previous song by whistling the tune after we finish singing. But that’s ok, and everyone misses him when he is not there.
He isn’t a clothes horse by any stretch. Wilbur always wears worn overalls and he might have a bright orange toboggan cap on also. Wilbur always has his cell phone with him. The problem is that he forgets to turn it off. It has been known to ring during the service and without hesitation Wilbur will answer it and in a very loud voice say, “Hello…no I’m in church right now; I’ll have to call you back. “ Well everyone accepts that and everyone loves Wilbur and encourages and helps him.
I even attempted one service to encourage Wilbur by asking him to join the percussion section and play the tambourine with them on one song. Whew! Was that ever a mistake! His heart was in it, but somewhere along the way he lost that little thing called rhythm, an essential for the percussion section. O well, you live and learn and he enjoyed it.
Wilbur does not know what a rhetorical question is. He will be so engaged in the sermon that he will loudly answer most rhetorical questions that the Pastor presents from the pulpit. For instance, if the Pastor says “How do you think God feels about that? “; Wilbur is likely to belt out in that strong Southern drawl, “Well, I don’t think He would like it! “
In one smaller Bible study the Pastor waxed eloquent for twenty minutes or so with a theological treatise concerning God, His ways, His purposes for the Church and was very satisfied with all of his knowledge and ability to explain his points. At the end of that particular lesson, at a very appropriate time, Wilbur offered his wisdom by saying, “So what you’re saying is that Jesus loves us.“ That put everything into perspective, put the cookies on the bottom shelf and spoke a word of simplistic encouragement to the Pastor.
Needless to say, everyone loves Wilbur. His candor and down home common sense reveal his heart and he is a great encouragement to all.
We should all take a lesson home from Wilbur. Be yourself. If you aren’t, who will be for you? Your friends need to know you, not who you want them to know.