Lessons from a Family Doctor

by Will Wilson

Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church (Bethel, OK)

A common question asked of most people from a young age is: “What does your father do?” In my life, the dialogue is always the same: “He’s a doctor.” “What kind of doctor?” It was not until recently that I truly considered the weight of my ever-ready answer: “He’s just a family doc.” Never was it intended to downplay his life’s work; it was simply another way of saying he wasn’t a specialist. Hanging in his office at work, for as long as I can remember, was a framed comic strip that was set in the Old West. The family doc saw several patients, sending one to the Ear, Nose, and Throat doc, another to the optometrist, and still another to the podiatrist. In the final frame, the family doc is sitting at his desk reflecting on his day’s work; he sighs and says, “I never get to treat anyone.”

Often, in the increasingly competitive world of ministry, many pastors have neither the funds nor the time to continue their formal education; thus, in their minds, they somehow fall short. Others come into ministry later in life, simply bringing with them a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree from a secular institution, having received no formal training in ministry. And still others are blessed to attend any one of our fine seminaries, many having attained master’s degrees, and no small number hold terminal degrees. Yet, how ought the pastor to view himself? Is the less educated pastor simply a family doc who never gets to treat anyone? Is the highly educated pastor a specialist who has his pick of who he can and will treat?

At the outset, let it be said that education and the pursuit thereof is absolutely necessary to preparing for ministry. The Academy is a gift to the church and should be valued for her pursuit of truth and knowledge. If the opportunity for higher education presents itself, waste no time in seizing it. Pastors should strive to be pastors and theologians. However, the education received from outside the Academy is just as valuable, simply by virtue of the knowledge gained. A vast majority of what I do as a pastor outside of the pulpit is executed with knowledge gained not from the Academy, but from a family doctor–a bachelor or a master, if you will—among a world of specialists.

The role of the pastor is much like that of the family doctor. We see everybody under our care. We are there at the “new birth,” and we are at the bedside at death. We administer life giving medicine in the form of bread, milk, and meat that nourishes the healthy and restores the unhealthy. We are intimately familiar with entire families, and they look to us as the one with the answers to what ails them. Last year, my dad celebrated fifty years of medical practice. I posted about this on social media and the responses were overwhelming. Countless were those who chimed in: “He delivered me!” “We love the doc!” “We wish he’d come back!” “He was such a caring and personal doctor.” On and on they went. How is it that someone who “never treats anyone” could have such an impact? Much in the same way that pastors do, regardless of one’s pedigree or particular context. Whether we know it or not, if we are preaching Jesus, loving people, and fulfilling our call, we are having an impact on people’s lives. Your flock will come to care about you as you care for them. And whether you ever hear about it or not, the pastor is remembered not for what he knew but how much he cared.

A second lesson learned from the family doctor was that of attention to and respect for the older generation: a valuable lesson for any pastor, especially a younger one. One day an elderly lady on a fixed income came to my dad’s office. She had an outstanding bill on file. After her visit, before she made her way to the front desk, my dad told his assistant to accept payment for the current visit, and then to inform her that her account was now paid in full. In that seemingly insignificant story, I learned a valuable lesson that I think of and act on frequently. With one kind act, the family doctor allowed her to maintain her dignity and he showed her grace. Often a pastor will arrive at an impasse with the older generation, usually over style of worship or some other secondary or tertiary issue. However, when the pastor has learned to treat them with attention, respect, dignity, and grace, more often than not he gains an ally and a friend.

A third lesson learned from the family doctor is that even though you may not want to do something, excuses are cheap, so you do it. To be sure there are advantages to being raised in a doctor’s home, but there is one singular disadvantage: it is impossible to act sick to get out of going to school. Even with one’s best acting skills engaged, one look in the doctor’s eyes and he knows. Pastor, there will always be things we don’t want to do. Often, it’s not that we can’t do things, we simply just don’t feel like doing them. But the task to which we are called is of the highest order; and one look into the Great Physician’s eyes will cause all of our best acting, our best excuses, our best efforts to falter. So, we suit up and go and do it. And at the end of the day, we find that we could do it, even if we didn’t want to.

Pursue the opportunities afforded you. Be educated. Learn humility. Learn honor. Learn to work hard. Wherever you find yourself, always be learning. And never forget that the specialists would have no one to treat if it weren’t for the referral of the family doctor. All that said, I wish just once the good doctor would have realized it would have been nice to miss just one day of school. Doctors and their education, am I right?

Will Wilson is the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Bethel, Oklahoma. Born and raised in Post, Texas, Wilson moved to Oklahoma at age 14. A graduate of Boyce College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has been the senior pastor at New Hope for almost a decade. He and his wife, Leigh, have been married for 17 years. They are the proud parents of Trip, Jett, Cruz and Tatum.

Waiting on God

by Todd Fisher

Senior Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church (Shawnee, OK)

I enjoy traveling because I like seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, trying new food, and meeting new people. The part of traveling I don’t like, however, is the waiting. You wait on the shuttle in the airport parking lot. Then you wait at the counter to check your bag. Then you wait at security. Then you wait to board the plane. Then you wait on the jet way. Then you wait on the plane for the person in front of you to put up their carry-on bags. Then you wait on the tarmac while the captain says you’re number seventeen for takeoff. When the plane lands you wait to unload and then you wait on your bags. Lots and lots of waiting.

Most of us hate to wait. In my pastoral counseling, I encounter many people who discover one of the most difficult things they will ever do is wait on God. Some of us are waiting for God to provide a spouse. Some of us are waiting on God to save our spouse and bring him/her into a right relationship with him. Some of us are waiting for the purpose of why something bad happened. Some of us are waiting for God to perhaps give healing to some disease. Some of us are waiting for God to show us what career path to take or give us wisdom about a big decision. Some of us are waiting for prodigal children to come home. Some of us have lost a loved one and are waiting for God to reveal His purpose and fill us with hope. When you think about it, many of us are waiting on God.

One of the most common ways we fail to wait on God is by getting impatient. We can be like Abraham and Sarah in Gen. 16 and try to take things into our own hands. God had promised the couple they would have descendants, but ten years after the promise and at an advanced age they were still childless. So Sarah, thinking God needed “help” to fulfill the promise, gives her husband her slave Hagar to have children. Their actions were sinful and caused a great deal of pain to their families and future generations.

So, how do we avoid making mistakes while waiting on God? Here are some lessons we can learn from Abraham and Sarah:

  1. We have to be willing to abide by God’s timeline, which is often different than ours. We have a tendency to get very myopic in waiting on God. We want what we want when we want it, which is immediately! Remember that God’s promise to Abraham was culminated in the birth of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later! God is about shaping and transforming lives, which means the process is very important to Him. Our culture today doesn’t like the process – we want immediate results. I sometimes used to dread long car trips with my kids because of the incessant, “Are we there yet?” and “He’s bothering me!” statements that came from the back seat. I often wanted to tell my children to just be patient and enjoy the ride. I wonder if there aren’t many times when God would like to say something similar to us.
  2. We must evaluate selfish motives while waiting on God. Being barren was a social stigma in Sarah’s day. Perhaps she got tired of waiting for God to fulfill His promise because of the personal toll it was taking on her. Also, Sarah may have had some sense of entitlement concerning God giving her children. After all, it was ten years earlier that she left her home, friends, and comfortable surroundings to leave for a foreign land and live in a tent. She could have said to God, “God, after all I have given up these past ten years, the least you could do is give me a child!” We must always be wary of ever thinking God owes us anything. In fact, if we got what we deserved from God, none of us would like it! If God chose today to give you nothing else again, you would still have a lifetime of giving Him thanks for all He has already given.
  3. Failing to wait on God often produces painful consequences.  Because Abraham and Sarah stopped trusting God and waiting on Him to fulfill His promise, they jumped the gun and brought Hagar into the picture. As a result, Ishmael was born and the family was fractured – a familial tension that still has consequences today. The mistakes we make while failing to wait on God can be disastrous. Many of us have enduring painful conditions in our life today that stand as testimonies to the times we failed to wait on God. We may have a bad financial situation because we got ahead of God’s will in our financial dealings. We may have a bad relationship because we failed to wait on God in the past. Failing to wait can have damaging repercussions.
  4. We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God that means He is working within us. Abraham and Sarah were arguably at their lowest place in Gen. 16. But they pulled through! The pinnacle of Abraham’s faith is yet to come when he obeys God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. The good news is that if we have made a mistake while waiting on God we can still receive his forgiveness and grace. We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God it isn’t because He is too busy or has lost interest in us – it’s because He is working in our lives. God puts us in a place of waiting because he is transforming us.  That is cause for rejoicing and makes the wait very much worth it all.

One time a mother in our church called the office to notify us that we would find play money in the offering plates from the previous Sunday. She wanted to explain its significance. This mother’s child has autism and for many years she struggled with coming to church because his behavior could be distracting. Yet, she made the commitment to come to church every Sunday regardless of what her son did or what others thought. On that Sunday, as they awoke and got ready for church, her son was excited and eager to attend. In the worship service, as the boy saw the offering plates approaching, he pulled out his pretend money that he loves to play with and put it in the plate. He wasn’t told to do so, he just did. The mother’s eyes filled with tears as she realized God was working in his life and hers. Here is a mother who has been waiting on God for many years to reveal His purpose. That Sunday she got a glimpse of what God is doing and the waiting was worth it. That is true for all of us as well.

Dr. Todd Fisher has been the Senior Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church (Shawnee, OK) since 2003. Born and raised in Ft. Worth, Todd made his way to Oklahoma to attend Oklahoma Baptist University where he met his wife Jamy, whom he married in 1994. They have three children and love serving together as a part of the amazing things God is doing at IBC. As our pastor, Todd is committed to encouraging and equipping people to grow as disciples through his ministry at IBC, blogging, and speaking opportunities. Todd is passionate about preaching/teaching the Bible and serves as an adjunct faculty member at OBU and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Todd loves spending time with his family and attending his children’s activities. He also enjoys running as well as rooting for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and OKC Thunder.

The Good Ambassador

by Jeff Crawford

Lead Pastor of Ministries, Teaching Pastor, Cross Church (Springdale, AR)

I recently had the opportunity to preach from 2 Corinthians 5 as part of a teaching series we called My Mission. One phrase from one verse has had a lasting personal impact upon me and how I view my role as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That one verse is verse 20 and that one phrase is:

“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

As followers of Jesus, our standing affords to us many privileges as citizens of the Kingdom of God, not the least of which is that we are joint heirs to that Kingdom with all the benefits of adoption into the Royal Family. But there are also responsibilities, namely the responsibility to serve as ambassadors for God’s Kingdom.

The role of ambassador carries with it a certain understanding, or at least it should. And that’s really the point of this post. 

Thinking about it all from a worldly geo-political point of view, let’s say that I was the United States Ambassador to Spain. That would mean that while I am a citizen of the United States, I would live in Spain.  I would also shop in Spain, drive the streets of Spain, eat the food in Spain, and I would probably even learn Spanish. But most importantly, I would build real relationships with real people in Spain.  All for a single purpose: to represent my country, the United States of America. You see, an ambassador doesn’t represent himself or herself. If I were the ambassador to Spain, it would never be about me; it would be about the United States, about the current president who appointed me, and about the government that sent me. I would be there to represent them. 

I would also be about the business of something else, something very important. In fact, the primary role of any ambassador is to deliver a message. In the same way that an ambassador represents the one who sent him or her, an ambassador also speaks for the one who does the sending. This is critical; vital, even, to the life of the mission. 

Back to our example:  if I were the ambassador to Spain, I would be very, very careful with my words. I would have a crystal-clear message from the president of the United States and it would be my job to keep that message pure. I would have talking points and I would, as they say, “stay on message.”  This means that I would not be on Twitter blowing off steam about how I felt about some restaurant in Spain that gave me poor service. To do such a thing would make the one who sent me look bad. It would also risk cutting off important relationships with Spaniards who love that restaurant. What I’m saying is that as an ambassador to Spain, it doesn’t really matter what I think about some particular topic. It doesn’t matter my viewpoint on the politics of Spain. It’s not about me. Let me say that again:  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. It’s only about the one who sent me and about what he thinks and about what he wants me to say. I am only a mouthpiece. A messenger. My conduct and my words must be designed to reflect, in the best way possible, the one who sent me.

By now you surely know where all this is headed. Pastor, you are an ambassador of the Kingdom. You have been sent by the King to live in “Spain.” Your words and conduct out of the pulpit are actually, at times, more meaningful than what you do or say in the pulpit. I am continually shocked and disturbed by what my fellow ambassadors feel free to say in the world of Social Media. It’s as if the mantle of ambassadorship is taken off hung on the coat rack when logged on to Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. My fellow laborers, I appeal to you, be very careful what you say when roaming the streets of “Spain.” This is a divided world we live in.  I think it may be more divided than in anyone’s lifetime. EVERYTHING is political. It doesn’t really matter what you personally think about guns, or walls, or this president, or climate change, or you name it. Once you lay down a personal position on any of these topics and more, you have surely alienated as much as 50% of your audience before you even begin to deliver the message of the King. A good ambassador would never want to do such a thing. The message of the cross is offensive enough by itself. It doesn’t need help from you turning people off before they have a chance to hear it. Remember, it’s not about what you like or you think or you believe about this or that. It’s only about the King and the Kingdom. God is making his appeal through you. 

Live this. Preach this. Social media this. And lead your congregation to be excellent ambassadors alongside you.

Jeff Crawford, Ed.D., is the lead pastor of ministries and teaching pastor at Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, a multi-site megachurch and one of the nation’s fastest growing churches according to Outreach magazine. Dr. Crawford is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and the author of three books, the most recent of which is his debut novel, Finding Eden. He and his wife Julie (also of OBU) have two married adult children and two teenagers living at home, with their first grandson arriving in December.