I have an electric blue mohair sweater hanging in my closet – the only memento I have of my Mommy Moore. It’s an odd item for a tiny Pentecostal Holiness minister to own. I can only imagine when it was purchased and where she chose to wear it. Mommy Moore and her husband Poppy Moore pastored for more than fifty years – trading preaching and Sunday School responsibilities. Long before the days of televangelists, it was a given that this was a co-pastor position, and that Poppy would also work a day job. Bi-vocational wasn’t even a word yet, but that’s what they did. Yet in everything they did, from carpentry, to preaching, to raising five children, joy was present.
I have a few items from my parents – mostly photos since I’m the fourth child. I have Mom’s Bible, the leather cracked and worn soft in her strong yet gentle hands, pages highlighted, notated, loved. It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit. My brother has Dad’s Bible and his Commentaries. My parents pastored in Oklahoma and Texas for about ten years. Dad was also bi-vocational, a wallpaper hanger by trade. Dad left the ministry when I was just a baby, hurt by his elder board and neglected by his supervisor. His sadness about his experience aged into bitterness that eroded his life until he passed at the age of 66.
I have my brother still. He pastored for thirty years and for a great deal of that time he was also bi-vocational. He and his wife are full of a deep, abiding joy and sweet spirit. Their faces become more beautiful with each passing year and they seem not to age at all. Eric and Susan will tell you that it has been a privilege to serve together these years, but those they served will say the privilege was in having them as pastors. Countless people all over the world testify of their wisdom, encouragement, and mentoring.
Three stories, three lives, three distinct experiences. What made the difference? It wasn’t money, leisure activities, or size of congregation. Each of them studied the Word, prayed, felt a sincere call to ministry, and devoted their hearts and lives to the Church. In retrospect it seems the difference was, at least in part, a Sabbath rest and a support system – denominational, relational, and personal.
Interestingly, this is a theme that cuts across denominational and demographic lines. The vast majority of pastors say they have no close friend or mentor, and take no personal Sabbath themselves on another day of the week. When questioned, many reply that the demands of ministry don’t allow for either.
My family’s stories and those of pastors everywhere drive the ministry of Barnabas House. What can you and I do to have a positive impact on our pastors in the areas of rest and relationship? We can encourage, support, cheer, volunteer, and put action to the good thoughts we have toward our pastors. We can forgive, change expectations, leave room for their Sabbath, promote healthy boundaries, and bless them with a weekend or a week long getaway. We can understand that they are people – faulty, sometimes broken individuals that often don’t feel they can be real without risking their position.
This winter I will once again wrap myself in that scratchy, electric blue mohair sweater and the joy woven between each strand. I will remember Mommy Moore’s legacy in our family and in so many others. Because of her I will choose joy, rest, and relationship, and I will sow that into my pastor’s life. And I will build a place where other pastors can come to receive restoration, refreshment, and renewal. What will you do?