Saturday, April 12, 2014

My FINAL Blog Post

I have no idea how so many pastors blog so faithfully! I'm truly jealous of them, as I aspire to be so consistent but just lack the ability to do so. So I think it's appropriate that my last blogs were of Roscoe Adams. I really have little to say after that. His life left a profound mark on my own and his death has left an equally profound hole in my heart. Oh- I'm not giving up- just happy to limp forward with it in whatever time I have left in my heart.

For those of you who may want to check up on what's going on with me now and then, Christ Fellowship Church (the awesome congregation I'm beyond privileged to serve) is the best way to keep up. I preach about 85% of the Sundays, although that should be lessening a bit as God has added such competent men to our leadership team. Stop in sometime if you like.

God bless all you faithful men and women who keep plodding for Jesus and his kingdom. One day soon, we won't need the blogosphere to stay in touch with each other. Until that day...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When A Pastor Loses His Pastor Pt. 3

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged in general and returned to my little series on “When A Pastor Loses His Pastor.” I hope to do both today. The passing of Roscoe Adams may end up being one of the most shaping influences of my life. Five months after he went to be with the Lord, I still am not sure if I have “landed” yet, but I think it’s time to start thinking about how I’m going to live in light of this man’s exceptional life. I can think of at least three things that I will take with me until the day I cross the river and join my friend and spiritual father in glory.

A Soft Spot for the Dallas Cowboys

Roscoe was an avid Cowboys fan. As a dyed in the wool (yes- those dyes are deep purple and jet black) Ravens fan, I’ll never jump ship, but I’ll keep the Cowboys as a close second. Yes- this is kind of a fluffy point, but not entirely.  I remember asking Roscoe one time why he had such a love of “America’s team.” He unhesitatingly said, “Tom Landry.”  I remember watching him as a kid but knew little about him. Landry was the famous coach of Dallas’ powerhouse Cowboys. Roscoe was taken by Landry’s quiet manner but passionate love of Jesus. Here’s a cool quote from Landry.

"This is really the most important factor in my life, my faith in Jesus Christ. When you accept Christ, He becomes first in your life. It's this priority that gives me peace." 

Here’s a cool 1972 article from the Sports Illustrated Vault for more information. Leave to Roscoe to make me think of Jesus when I think about the Cowboys!

A Life Characterized By Prayer

For Roscoe, prayer was never a duty or a chore- it was a delight. He prayed more than any man I’ve ever known- literally hours per day (although he would never EVER come even close to bragging about this). I can’t even count the times he would say, “Greg, when I’m alone, I often just lay on my floor and talk to my father.”

“My Father…” Roscoe loved this phrase, and I think I’ve started every prayer I’ve prayed in the last five months with this address. When he was only four-years-old, Roscoe lost his father in an accident. I can’t say for certain that this is why Roscoe was so taken by the simple but profound truth that God was his father, but I’m sure it factored in some how. Check out this video where Roscoe talks openly about his prayer life. “A day without prayer is a wasted day.” If God gives me 40 more days or 40 more years, I want to pray like he prayed. Coming to “my Father” each and every day to pour out my heart to him.

An Exceptional Family Man

I do not know of a man who exemplified what it means to love his family first and foremost. I said this to Queenie at the memorial service, “No man loved his wife like Roscoe loved you.” And I will say this to her still. It was not empty sentiment or  rhetorical embellishment. He was an exceptional family man. When we prayed together he would ask me to pray that God would empower him to ALWAYS put Queenie’s needs over his own. And he would always pray for his children and grandchildren. I will never forget Roscoe’s oldest son’s Glen’s words at the memorial service. He testified to how his father had instilled in him and his brother, Michael, ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY. Glen then looked to the sky and said, “Pop- we got this!”  When a grown man can say this about his departed father…few things in life are more precious.
Roscoe would often tell me, “Greg- don’t worry about x y and z…just take care of Lisa and the kids.” By the grace of God- I will. I’ve certainly had quite a model to emulate.

Monday, August 13, 2012

When A Pastor Loses His Pastor Pt. 2

Roscoe with Samantha and new-born Benjamin- April '03
The weeks after Roscoe died were a blur. When I started to find something resembling normalcy the summer was upon us. Lisa and I have a tradition with our oldest two kids- to watch a classic movie series from our own childhood together. Having knocked out The Karate Kid and Star Wars we took on the Rocky franchise this time around (not Rocky V of course, since even Stallone has pretended it never happened).  I did not expect to find myself forcefully brought face to face with my grief in a movie starring “Mr. T.” Funny how providence works…

With a bowl of bite-size Butterfingers (another rule- no healthy eating during this movie tradition) in my lap and the DVD remote in my hand, I actually had to abruptly leave the room when the following scene played out. 


Mickey was more than Rocky’s trainer. He was a friend, partner and father-figure. Rocky just came from the worst beating of his career. Knocked out in the second round. Certainly he would have wanted Mickey’s wisdom and counsel (maybe something deeper than “you’re going to eat lightning and crap thunder”), but he simply expected to walk into that locker room and start brainstorming for the next battle. I think the most moving line in this little clip is Rocky’s tearfully choked, “We got more to do. We got more to do.”

That’s exactly how I felt in the days after Roscoe died. God simply could NOT have taken him because we had so much more to do. And I think that was the first time it dawned on me with mid-day clarity: I am now a pastor without a pastor. I simply never could have imagined doing what I “got to do” without Roscoe.

As I mentioned in my first post, this kind of experience is brand new to me. Almost 27 years as a believer, for the first time I am thinking a lot about Timothy and how he must have felt when Paul was called home. I would imagine that he spent much time looking back over the correspondence he had received from his own spiritual father. I’ve done this for months now with countless emails and my own remembrances of countless conversations.

Fortunately for us we have a few of those letters from Paul to Timothy. 2 Timothy (when Paul is anticipating the imminence of his own death) is quite personal in its tone. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of encouragement out of this section.

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:1-6)

Many things stand out, so let me concentrate on just one in this post. Mentors are always temporary, and the best mentors prepare their apprentices to be without them.  Even though Paul loved Timothy and called him his “child” (verse 1), the seasoned apostle did not let his protégé take his eye off the ball of verse 2.

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 

Paul prepared Timothy for what transcended even their own special relationship- “what you have heard from me” i.e. the gospel. Paul knew that one day he would be gone, but more importantly, he knew that one day even Timothy would be gone. What must remain? The gospel- here pictured as a baton that is passed on from Paul to Timothy to “faithful men” to “others” to…  

When I think back on the countless conversations I had with Roscoe over our fifteen-year relationship, one phrase dominates all the others. He would say this to me at least once a week and ALWAYS on Sunday. “Greg, just preach the gospel.”  While it breaks my heart to know that I’ll never him say those words to me again (obviously, he won’t be saying that to me in heaven!), he said it enough. I know what I need to do.

I am indebted to Roscoe for passing on the baton of his gospel-saturated life. By the grace of God, may I pass on the same to others so that when I’m gone, and they’re gone, and the next generation is gone…the gospel will remain!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When A Pastor Loses His Pastor Pt. 1

April 22, 2012 has now become one of the most important dates of my life. My mentor, pastor and spiritual father, Roscoe Adams, went home suddenly to be with the Lord. How a black man who grew up in the segregated Deep South (old enough to be my father) would be come the most significant spiritual influence in my life is something only the gospel could bring about.

Ironically, the day he died was a Sunday. I saw him that morning in church just before the service started. As was his custom, he gently laid his hand on my shoulder and said, “How you doing this morning?”  With Roscoe there was never a cliché tone to that question. He genuinely meant it and genuinely wanted to know the answer. 

That service was providential for at least two reasons: 1) Our mutual friend, Dave Shive, preached a fine sermon (Roscoe always loved Dave’s teaching) and 2) The last song we sang (and more importantly, the last song Roscoe ever sang) was “Give Me Jesus.”  As I look back on that service, now more than ever I see the sweetness of God’s providence. Roscoe got to hear his dear friend preach, and the last line he ever got to sing was “And when I come to die, just give me Jesus.” Just a few hours later, he laid down for a short nap and received what he asked for.

His precious wife of 48 years, Queenie, is the one who has no doubt suffered the most. Her faith is strong, and she has continued to pour herself into her children and grandchildren. Her two grown sons would have made their dad proud in the way they have served their mother, and I cannot even imagine their sense of loss since Roscoe died. I say all this ONLY to prevent you from getting the wrong impression. There are people much farther up on the pecking order whose grief if far more pronounced. I have to remind myself of this in my darkest moments. But I do feel compelled to share a few of the thoughts that have emerged in my mind these past 3 months.  This first point is simply a declaration of the powerful emotional effect of Roscoe’s death. Please know this that I’m simply trying to be brutally honest in this first post. I will share some more forward-moving principles in the coming days.

I have for the very first time actually found myself with a new thought- What was it like for Timothy (or Titus) to lose his Paul?

Think of the affection Paul had for Timothy. And since we don’t have Timothy’s letters back to Paul we can safely infer that it was a mutual affection.

To Timothy, my true child in the faith (1 Tim 1:2)

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child (1 Tim 1:18)

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. (1 Tim 6:20)

To Timothy, my beloved child (2 Tim 1:2)

As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. (2 Tim 1:4)

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 2:1)

Do your best to come to me soon. (2 Tim 4:9)

That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord (1 Cor. 4:17)

But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. (Php 2:22)

As I read each verse carefully, I am struck with this fresh thought: Timothy likely looked over these words again and again. I wonder if he ever thought, “How can I do this without Paul?” While I can’t prove it emphatically, I would confidently guess that he did indeed ask that question.

I had Roscoe in my life for fifteen years. Now I can see that God intended me to have a spiritual father from the first moment I started in the pastorate. And let me say this boldly- I NOW SEE THAT HAD ROSCOE NOT BEEN THERE FOR ME I WOULD HAVE LEFT THE PASTORATE. That was a stunning realization to come to. Something that always lurked in the unconscious recesses of my brain has erupted to the forefront of my mind in high definition clarity.

Until I was a pastor, I had never realized just how sensitive I was. After a while the criticism  really began to get to me, and it would always bring me face-to-face with Roscoe.

“Roscoe- this is getting hard. I’m not sleeping. I’m irritable. I’m just feeling worn down.”

With pure compassion in his eyes, “I know, Greg. I can tell how much this is taking a toll on you. How’s Lisa doing?”

From there the conversation would vary. Sometimes he would urge me to “man up” and just serve Lisa and the kids. Other times he would just listen and absorb the hurt with me.  Almost always he would just simply remind me of who I was because of the gospel. But always- WITHOUT EXCEPTION- he would hug me and say, “Greg- I love you like a son.”

I miss him so much that it almost physically hurts sometimes. He always had my back. He always supported me. And he always brought me back to the gospel.

Just knowing that Timothy experienced this kind of grief (and probably in a more profound way) helps me a great deal.  In the next couple of posts, I want to share some things I’m learning about how to move forward when a a pastor loses his pastor.