Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 17, 2003


Some of the things I miss now that I am no longer serving as a pastor


            Going back to Trinity Church last Monday was a trip down memory lane. It had been 15 months since I retired so it was a bit strange to stand in the pulpit again, to share in the funeral of my dear friend Thomas Samford. Since Monday, I have been thinking about some of the things I miss.

            Most of all, I miss the children. Having boys and girls embrace you week after week is an incredible privilege. I miss their smiles and their unpretentious spirits. I miss having them grab me by a leg and saying, “I luve you Brudder Walter!”

            Naturally I miss the parents of these children also. So many parents with small children have made Trinity a church with a strong future. I remember back in the early nineties that the Lord gave us a mission – to minister to families with small children. It was a worthy mission and a vision that fueled the work of the people and the staff for years.  

            I miss the creative ministry of Melinda Jackson in working with children. What a job she has done for more than a decade in making boys and girls feel at home at Trinity.

            I miss the music. Few churches anywhere have had a stronger music ministry that Trinity. I miss hearing the choirs sing. I miss listening to Thomas Samford’s Quartet sing some of my favorite gospel songs. I miss hearing Joy Samford sing with such power and love for the Lord. I miss seeing what Joy can do with a children’s choir on a glad Children’s Sunday.

            I miss seeing God at work in the lives of people. One night, years ago, I drove out to the home of Art and Frances Blackburn and their three children. They decided to make Trinity their home church.

            I watched the children grow up to become fine people. I watched Art and Frances grow in the faith as they found one place after another to serve in the church. One of their interests was missions.

            After a few years, they agreed to chair the missions team. They began to plan for mission work teams to go to Mexico and Ecuador. They volunteered to serve on some of these teams and made several trips to Shell, Ecuador.

            The more they worked for God, the more God worked in their hearts. Now, this month, Art and Frances are headed to Ecuador where they will begin serving as missionaries. Both of them gave up good jobs in order to answer the call of God to the mission field. What a privilege to see God at work in people’s lives!

            A year or so ago I saw the same thing happen to Keith and Dianne Byrd. Both of them gave up promising careers in education and became missionaries to Highlands Bible College in Kenya. They were home this summer and have just returned for their second year of service in Kenya.

            I miss talking to people daily who are growing in grace and trying to make a difference for God in our community. I miss the joy of working with scores of people who do the simple deeds of love and mercy that make a church a loving family. These are the people who make a church great – the people who demand no attention or praise but simply want the chance to honor the Lord in quiet, loving ways.

            I miss praying with people at the altar of the church, and in their homes, and in their work places. One of the great honors of a pastor is to be able to walk into almost any situation and pray with people about whatever is on their hearts.

            One of the things I miss the most is my team on the church staff. Earl Ballard was the finest Chief of Staff any preacher ever worked with. I could run everything by Earl and invariably, God helped him to help me to find our way out of most any wilderness. I miss sharing ministry on a daily basis with this strong servant of God.

             I miss my buddy Jimmy Allen who has now moved on to Chipley, Florida, to pastor a church there. Jimmy was full of the joy of the Lord, and his presence made a difference no matter what we were doing.  I miss the quiet but steady Scott Kaak, whose addition to the staff gave us the administrative leadership we needed.

            Some people may have thought of Earl, Jimmy, and me as the Three Stooges, but those guys saved my life many times over. The job was far too big for me, but together, I know now that we made a strong team.

            Without naming all my other teammates, I really miss them all. We all had a sense of being called by God to serve together, and that bonded us together as nothing else could have.

            Are there some things I do not miss about church? Of course! But those are things I will take up with the Lord in his private office. What matters ultimately are not the negative things, but the positive experiences in which we see God at work.

            While there are things I miss now that I am no longer a pastor, I am not sad that my time has come and gone. I had my turn at bat. It was a great run while it lasted.

            Now I am in a new ballgame, making new memories, and finding new ways to be God’s man wherever he puts me. No one can live in the past. I look back with gratitude. I look forward with faith. To be alive – and to live for God today – that is the key to joy!

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