My friend, Jim Martin has served the Crestview Church in Waco for over twenty years. My wife, Karen and I were present for his last Sunday as he graciously said “Thank you” to the church. I fondly refer to Jim as a “prince among preachers.” Sunday, November 24 was his last Sunday as he takes a new position as Vice President of Harding School of Theology in Memphis, TN.
When a minister leaves a church some people are sad, others are mad and still others, glad. Reasons vary because the relationship between a minster and a church is complex. More than a organizational role, the minister is organically connected to people as teacher, friend, servant, leader and mouthpiece for God (1 Peter 4.11). People relate to the minister in a variety of ways, both real and perceived. The relationship, however, is one of trust as week after week the minister stands for and with the church in the seasons of life: birth, baptism, marriage, spiritual struggle, brokenness and death. The longer a minister is in a church the deeper the relationship and sense of loss when he leaves. It is, a process of grief in every way.
Jim is a good man with the spirit of Barnabas (Son of Encouragement). Barnabas was present at every critical time in the life of the early church in Acts. You could depend on Barnabas and you can depend on Jim. It was obvious in all the stories shared about him and in witnessing his interactions with the people. His contagious kindness, caring presence and commitment to walk in the steps of Jesus long after the sermon refreshes the hearts of the saints. His deep, southern voice and down to earth manner exude pastoral care in a spirit of genuineness, honesty and openness. When Jim speaks its like you are having a cup of coffee with him as his preaching flows from of a deep well of gratitude to God and the church. As Jim highlighted years of relationships mentioning elders, ministers and staff with whom he shared life I was reminded once again, of the uniqueness of minister and church.
As an outsider to the church, it was interesting to observe Jim and his wife, Charlotte’s care, humility and graciousness. The church honored the Martin’s well while pointing to the faithfulness of God. The Martin’s did the same sharing their deep appreciation for their support, helping nurture faith in their children and showing care in times of need and family loss. Jim said, “This church is in a good place with good leadership.”. He also said, “The church has never been about just showing up on Sunday, rather being the presence of Jesus in this community every day of the week”. These affirmations are spiritually vital for a new beginning for Crestview and the Martins.
The Crestview leaders have no plans to replace Jim quickly. Grief takes time and rushing to fill the pulpit as if it were a job, not a calling is spiritually disastrous. They are using an interim minister and an outside consultant to walk them through the transition. Good for them. It takes wisdom and humility to lean on and learn from others.
As the day came to a close, one elder said, “Jim, we are sending you to Harding to continue your ministry of mentoring and training the next generation of preachers.” No wonder we closed the day holding hands singing, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
The Martins are leaving well and in doing so remind everyone of the sacred trust of being a steward of God’s grace. “Since we have received this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart..(2 Cor 4.1).