“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Proverbs 3:27
There are a couple special people to whom good is due. And since it is in my power to give it, I’d like to share a tribute to my pastor:
Five years ago, when a number of families felt called to establish an evangelical presence in southeast Barrie, the character of the senior pastor was critical in our considerations because of how strongly it flavours the atmosphere of the church as a whole.
We wanted our pastor to be like Jesus Christ – willing to sacrifice for his sheep. So we found Jason: A pastor who would sacrifice residence in his country of origin, an established job at a bigger church, a custom home in the woods of rural Massachusetts, rich friendships and a less expensive cost of living – all to come live in a small house in expensive, cramped suburbia to shepherd a fledgling church that consisted of a handful of families.
We wanted hospitality modeled from the top down: So God gave us a pastor couple who tirelessly open their home for counselling, Bible Studies, fellowship, games nights, prayer nights and an army of neighbourhood children.
We wanted our church to be safe from the whims and fads of wider Christian culture: So God gave us a pastor who studies carefully and who would consider every idea, sermon or course of action in light of the whole counsel of God.
We wanted a pastor who would model biblical marriage & family life: So God blessed us with a pastor who parents with wisdom, humour, time and grace and who loves & cherishes his wife, causing her to visibly flourishes under his leadership.
We wanted a pastor who would fiercely defend the health & unity of the body: So God blessed us with an unflappable man who would endure in counselling, be patient in disagreement, believe the best in others, and be quick to listen, forgive and restore.
We wanted a pastor who was not interested in building his own kingdom, but building God’s kingdom: So God sent us a man who would scrub toilets, paint other people’s houses, pack moving vans, visit hospitals, encourage missionaries, labour in the obscure backrooms of marriage counselling and never once seek glory, advancement or affirmation.
We wanted a pastor’s wife who wouldn’t be a detraction from, but a complement to her husband’s ministry: So God gave us Laura. Equal parts compassion, grace, kindness, discretion, patience, wisdom, grit and beauty of every variety. You could find her in the nursery blessing young moms with the opportunity to be undistracted as they soaked in needed spiritual nourishment. Or being one of the first ones to drop off a meal or watch a child. Or embracing neighborhood children who are one step away from the foster system. Or managing the education and training of her children. Or having a coffee, walk or jog with another woman to give encouragement or counsel. Far from a detraction or even a mere complement, our pastor’s wife has been a crowing feature and priceless addition to his ministry.
The role of pastor can always be filled, but the relationships Southshore Bible Church has enjoyed with our first pastor can’t be replaced. No matter how this church and its leadership may change, we will all love and cherish the Austins as our one-and-only founding-pastor family.
Jason & Laura taught our people in their coming. They taught our people through their being here. And now, through the care they’ve shown in securing for us an excellent successor before their departure and by returning Stateside to fulfill the biblical mandate to honour aging parents, they have taught our people in their leaving.
Thank you Austin family for all you have invested in Barrie, Ontario. You have indeed flavoured our church and it’s been very sweet!
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
I Peter 5:2-4