For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).” Acts 4:36
It happened driving down the road at 55 miles per hour. When I was growing up, there was one man outside my family that I respected so much…one that garnered my admiration. It was my pastor. His name was James Branch. I happened to be an insider at his house because his son was one of my best friends. It didn’t matter when or where—I always saw him as a man I could trust and more than once he was there for my family. When my Daddy died early one Sunday morning, he was at my house. I can still remember him on the back porch in his white shirt minus the black tie he wore, consoling my Mama. She was so upset and began to hyperventilate. Bro. Branch, with his hand on her shoulder, spoke words of comfort and peace. There can be no doubt he played a big role in how I would later serve as a pastor.
That might be why it stung so much. I received an email this week from a national organization. It revealed the results of Gallup’s national survey on American’s perception of the honesty and ethical standards of professions. Not surprising, 89% of Americans gave nurses high or very-high standards. Doctors stood at 77% followed by pharmacists at 71%. Well, I certainly can’t argue with that. These dedicated folks have surely shown their colors this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hats off to our school-teachers too, who scored 75% and our men and women in blue who scored 52%—the only other profession about which a majority of Americans say have high or very high ethics and honesty.
The article went on to say that clergy or ministers came in at 39% when it came to honesty—right between judges and nursing home operators. While senior adults as a group ranked pastors higher (51%), the younger generation (ages 18-34) rated pastors only at 24 percent. To put it in perspective, in 1985, pastors received a 67% rating. When I think of my pastor in 1974 who stood on the back porch with my grieving family, I have to wonder, “what happened?” Why is it that so many think so lowly of clergy? Some of the reasoning, I believe, is a cultural shift—while too much, might, just might, be the truth. It seems we can only go a few weeks without some named pastor being in the news for some breach of trust. I just don’t know.
When I read this news, I grieved. After all, pastors, above all other Jesus followers, should be, must be, people of integrity. We should set the example. Granted, we are not perfect—in fact far from it. Like the old saying goes, “Christians, including pastors, aren’t perfect, we are just forgiven.” I like that. This is why what happened that day driving 55 miles per hour meant so much. My phone rang.
I looked at the caller ID and saw it was a young man who is a member at the church I pastor. Honestly, I wondered why he was calling. While we speak often at church, he is not on my speed dial and I’m sure I am not on his. I answered the phone and exchanged greetings and said, “Hey, what can I do for you?” What happened next was not what I could do for him, but what he did for me. I won’t get it all right, but the bottom line is he said, “I know you have a really hard job right now with all that is going on. I want you to know as one of the younger generation, I think you are doing a good job.” He shared how he and another of our young guys were talking the other night—sharing the same thing. It made my day and I told him so.
It turned out that he was driving in the same direction as I and had passed me and just felt prompted to make that call. I’m so glad he did. It is one of those times I just wonder if the Whisperer whispered in his ear and said, “Call Dewayne. He needs a good word about now.” And thankfully he did. So, let me encourage you to be an encourager. We all know people who just need a word to help keep them going. There was a guy in the Bible whose name was Barnabas, which literally means “encourager.” I’m assuming he was such a positive force in the lives of others, someone said, “We’ll just call you Barney…and it stuck”.
So, to my Barney that Friday morning, thanks. Thanks for listening to the Lord and thanks for encouraging a guy who happens to be a lot older than you and who happens to be a pastor. And keep it up. There are a lot of empty cups in our world that need filling. I love the fact that my Dearest Daddy believes in me. I’m still amazed how much Judy believes in me. But when someone outside that circle cares and believes…that is special. Let’s join Jesus and be the light in someone’s day. Encourage everyone you know and assure them that everything is going to be okay. Why? Because, “He’s got this.”