"Those who honor me, I will honor..." 1 Samuel 2:30 (excerpt)
I met him 20 years ago last week, when he moved from McComb, MS to Hattiesburg to take a staff position @ the church I attend.
Gloriously, I'll never be the same.
He has been quietly faithful these past 20 years (and, I'm quite confident, the years before too.). I have learned so very much from him, some by direct teaching & most by just living in his orbit & attending church & sitting on committees & such.
Here are just a few areas where I hope I'm better because of the influence of this remarkable guy:
--Family - one of the great husbands, sons, & fathers I've ever known! His two grown children are very thankful for him, as is his beloved bride, whom he deeply cherishes. Despite a crushing schedule, he hung out every week with his Dad until Dad entered the presence of Jesus.
--Church Membership - From him, I have learned much about what it means to be a faithful church member who supports the mission of the church--and of the Church at large. In the past, I have disagreed on some minor details; I was wrong. And I was NEVER condemned by him.
--Friendship - I think he knows everyone in the greater southeastern U.S., and yet he faithfully keeps up with most of them--us--via phone, visits, Twitter, Facebook,...
--Discipline - He honors the Lord with the totality of his life, mostly by being disciplined about the basics. Time in the Word, worship, prayer,...and amazing schedule management.
--Prayer - He's one of my "prayer Bros," the go-to guys who I turn to regularly to ask them to intercede for me before the throne of grace. And I am just one of *many* whose name & situation is mentioned in his prayers. And always with confidentiality, never engaging in what I call "Baptist gossip"...as in, "we need to pray for ______, because I've heard that s/he's really struggling with ______"
--Ministry - Despite time demands that I cannot imagine, I don't know of anyone more faithful to visit people in the hospitals in the area. Whether members of his church or not! On one occasion, he flew a long way across country to be with a church member's family while the church member had very serious & long surgery.
--Grace - This is probably where I've learned the most from observing this guy. First, there's his very good sermon "Grace Clothes" that I've heard him preach a couple of times, & been challenged mightily both times. Then, there's the reality that on three occasions in the last 20 years, our church has had a pastor leave. Twice under a very serious cloud. At no time did my buddy dishonor the departing pastor by rumor-mongering nor even by sharing the truth. Not one time. (Thankfully, the most recent pastor's "leaving" earlier this year, was NOT under a cloud. But it still imposes a large burden on the Executive Pastor.)
--Trust - in the Gospel, which enables all of the above. I've watched his family go through the death of a beloved son-in-law to leukemia when the son-in-law was all of 33 years old. I've seen my buddy re-orient his entire life in order to help his daughter raise three young children. All the while, continuing to smile & press on in faithful ministry.
Is he a perfect guy? No. Is he a perfect minister? No. Does he make mistakes? Yes. But he's much more of the first two than I, and he makes FAR fewer mistakes than I.
I thank God for leading Gary Shows to Temple Baptist Church 20 years ago. I know of very few who have consistently honored the Lord as consistently & faithfully over a very challenging 20-year period as he. I'm glad he's at my church. I'm even more glad he's my friend. His grandkids named him "G," which is, of course, the perfect name for him. A number of us who are not his grandkids call him that now with the greatest affection.
Thanks, G, for all you do. And selfishly, for all you do & have done for Mike Madaris. Keep pressing on, amigo.
With much love,