The uplift came from preaching four times to a growing Free Methodist congregation that exudes strength, though only 13 years ago it was on the verge of extinction. The story centers in the vision of a pastor who answered the call.
In 1997 the church was about to be closed. A concerned member phoned a retired conference superintendent living forty miles away, and appealed for help. The Leonards, Richard and Ruth, answered the call and Rev. Leonard was appointed by the conference. He had previously served 27 years as a conference superintendent, and been in retirement for two years. Nevertheless, the Leonards began driving the 80-mile round trip once and twice a week, giving pastoral care.
Eight people turned up for the first public service
Yet in 13 years the church has come back from a near-death experience. The majority of the growing membership is there through conversion, and there have been as many as 140 in church on special occasions.
Also, Pastor Leonard has led the congregation through a series of projects that have made the church’s building and yard attractive inside and out. The climax of these projects to date has been the erecting of a beautiful parsonage one mile from the church.
The weekend wonderfully refreshed my conviction that “once a pastor always a pastor.” When the church ordains a person, that ordination is more than a mere assignment to a temporary job. It is a “setting apart” — intended to be a lifetime calling to a shepherding ministry. Therein lies its challenge and fulfillment.
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