Every single guy wants to know that he has what it takes. Every one of us, at the core of our being, longs to hear this from one who matters. Ideally, this comes from Dad. Sadly--and this is the subject of another post for another day--increasingly few hear Dad say those most critical words.
Which goes a long way toward explaining a lot of guy behavior...stupid guy behavior. We seek out a place to be told "you have what it takes." By somebody. Anybody.
Teachers...gangs...coaches...mentors...we want to hear it said by somebody, and we will keep searching to find somebody to tell us. Desperately searching...
And that, ladies & gents, is why I'm so very delighted & honored to be a small part of this one particular ministry @ my church: tbcsports & Upward. I confess that when we built a gym & hired a Recreation Minister to run our new gym, I was a skeptic about it all (not about the guy, mind you; just about the importance of sports ministry in gen'l). And I was utterly & completely wrong.
That particular Rec minister has, in 10 years here in Hattiesburg, had a HUGE impact on many. On kids...on coaches...on referees...on our community...and on me. Eddie Baker is an incredibly effective minister of the Gospel. Well- and broadly-read, impact-focused, Christ-centered, organized, and always learning & tweaking to improve effectiveness. And through it all, overwhelmingly humble. (In fact, he won't like this particular blog entry...)
Eddie has comforted those who were mourning...and encouraged those (of us!) facing intense medical uncertainty (he himself has faced intense medical uncertainty)...and taught many how to be more Christlike in the totality of our lives...and pointed folks who were drifting back on-course...and answered questions from seekers, some of whom didn't even realize they were seeking...and calmed down those who have lost perspective on, say, the quality of refereeing at a kindergarten basketball game...
But beyond that, Eddie Baker is an amazing guy! He's one of my best friends. Has gone way above & beyond for me and mine these past 10 years. Eddie & I have prayed together, laughed together, cried together, discussed theology, shared secrets & secret struggles completely secure in the knowledge that they would stay secret...we've sat beside each other at football games at our alma maters (Bama for me, Ole Miss for him) and have listened with great interest to each other's stories of how we were changed by our time in Tuscaloosa/Oxford back in the day, and of memories we cherish from those days. And some we don't particularly cherish...(like, say, when I was taking Master's comps while his alma mater's team crushed mine just a couple of blocks away...on our homecoming day! *smile*)
Years back, another great friend of mine said we're lucky if we have half a dozen deeply intimate friendships in our lifetime. I scoffed, thinking, "I've got dozens...hundreds...of such friends..." (I do have a large number of great friends to whom I owe my life and whom I love dearly...) My friend in Indiana explained to me what he meant: "the friend I'm describing is one you could call at 2:30 a.m. & say 'I need you' and about halfway over to your house, this guy would think 'I wonder what he needs me for...oh well, I'll find out shortly when I get there...'" Narrows the field a bit doesn't it? (Aside: I really hope I'm viewed as such a friend by somebody...)
Do you have such people in your life? I do. Eddie Baker is one. I know this, because I have called & said "I need you" and he's put his life on hold for me. (albeit, not yet at 2:30 a.m....*grin*)
So why am I talking about Eddie Baker? Because this month marks 25 years since Eddie finished seminary and took his first full-time job in ministry.
I've read that roughly 2/3 of those in ministry are considering leaving it at any time. Not leaving a particular ministry job, but leaving the ministry After 25 years, my buddy Eddie is probably more excited about what our God is doing in & through his ministry than he ever has been. He is still growing & tweaking, pressing on toward the finish line that I hope he doesn't reach for many, many years yet.
It is one of my life's great honors that Eddie Baker lets me be a small part of his ministry. (Oh, how I wish you all could've hung out with me at the gym yesterday morning & seen life-changing ministry in action!) But it is a greater honor that Eddie Baker considers me his friend and partner in the Gospel.
Thanks, Eddie, for letting our God use you so powerfully in the lives of so many. Especially in my life.
I love you, Brother! Happy Ministry Anniversary! Many, many more...
p.s. - Following are several Bible verses/passages that come to mind when I think of ministers like Eddie Baker.
For they have gone out for the sake of the name...Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
3 John 1:7-8
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. Phil. 4:14
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. Philemon 1:7
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Cor 15:58
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.