Once a month we get together in two small groups during the time we would normally meet as a staff to do planning, strategy, reporting, etc., and instead we just pray for each other and take turns reciting the passage to be memorized for the month, as well as the prior month’s. Because of the size of our church, most members of the senior staff rarely work side by side during a typical week, and for that reason and others these monthly meetings are extraordinarily sweet times.
All of the younger senior staffers memorize the passages in the ESV, while most of the older ones memorize from the NIV or NASB. Because of the differences in wording, sometimes we have to hand our Bible to the person sitting next to us so that they can check the wording for us as we recite the passage to make sure that it lines up with the translation from which we memorized.
Last Wednesday, I was sitting next to my senior pastor, Steve Goold (not, mind you, the “slam-master/witch-doctor” from Friday’s post, but his father). So when Steve’s turn came, he handed me his Bible and away he went on Ephesians 3:14-4:6. The Bible that I held in my hands was ragged. Borderline abused. Every page was tattered. Most pages had small tears or holes in them that had been taped up. It was filled with notes in the margin and in the text, in different colors of ink and in pencil. The paper crinkled in my hands and had the feel of an old map, rather than the smooth texture of a Bible straight out of the factory plastic wrap.
When Steve finished reciting the passage I handed his Bible back to him and said, “That is a very encouraging Bible, Steve.” Steve half smiled and gave a humble “Hmm.” And then, looking down at the text in his hands, he said, “You know, I have four Bibles that look like this and I was just thinking about them earlier this week…”
What happened next might not sound particularly significant or poignant to anyone else, but I am confident that it will stick with me for the rest of my life and will be remembered as a brief but very weighty moment in my formation as a pastor.
Steve’s voice started cracking, sounding labored under the weight of suppressed tears. And with his eyes welling up he said, “…I was thinking about what an amazing privilege it is that God has allowed me to make a living wearing out Bibles.”
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).