Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 10, 2011


Expectations are high as we welcome our new pastor


          We have a new sheriff in town. His name is Allen Newton. Allen is the new lead pastor of my church, Saint James United Methodist Church in Montgomery. By his pleasure I am still on staff there so Allen is my new boss.

Fifty years old, Allen is the son of my dear friend and fellow pastor, Doug Newton. Doug and his wife Gaynelle have been good friends for half a century. So I know well the good stock from which Allen comes.

My former boss, Lester Spencer, has moved to Gulf Breeze, Florida. He has a new and bigger assignment; his church there has 4500 members and three campuses. Lester and his wife Janeese had an extraordinary 18-year ministry in the capitol city. They led Saint James from Court Street out to a marvelous new location on Vaughn Road. With a beautiful church plant and 60 acres of land, Saint James has the potential to become a stronger force for Christ in the Montgomery area.

So the expectations for our new pastor are high. Given his track record of outstanding growth in the churches he has served, there is every reason to believe that Allen will be successful at Saint James. Today he will preach his first sermon as our new pastor and the congregation is truly excited about welcoming him with much love, expectancy and a great crowd. I can’t help but believe the place will be packed out.

Expectations and excitement are wonderful. They can help us have a great new beginning as Allen launches his ministry with our 1800-member congregation. But most of us are wise enough to know that lasting progress takes time to develop. Patience and persistence, along with faith in God, are usually necessary in the achievement of excellence.

In addition many of our people must step forward and shoulder their part of the load. No pastor, however gifted, can push a church to new heights by himself or herself. The growth of a church requires teamwork as well as high caliber leadership, but together excellence can be reached. Not that we can “achieve” it in our own strength; God’s grace is what can turn a congregation of people into a great, dynamic church. 

What is thrilling is that it can happen! A gifted, servant leader and a band of faithful believers can work together and allow God to do mighty things in their midst. But it usually does not happen overnight. Patience is necessary, patience that often looks like blood, sweat and tears. Patience bathed in hope will keep faith strong and allow God to work wonders within the fellowship of believers.

The Chinese bamboo tree teaches this important lesson. In the words of our son Matt, also a pastor, “The quality things of life are rarely developed overnight – they take time.” Our generation has ignored that lesson. Most of us want instant gratification. Patience hell; we want what we want – and we want it now. 

So what is the lesson of the Chinese bamboo tree?  The Chinese plant the bamboo seed; they water and fertilize it, but the first year, nothing appears. The story is the same the second year, the third year, and the fourth year – not even a sprout comes up. Then, the fifth year they water and fertilize it – and something finally happens.

          During the fifth year, in a period of about six weeks, the Chinese bamboo tree grows some 90 feet! Matt asks this penetrating question: Did the tree grow 90 feet in six weeks or did it grow 90 feet in five years? His answer: “It grew 90 feet in five years because, had they not applied the water and fertilizer each year, there would have been no Chinese bamboo tree.”

          As our new pastor begins his work in our church we will do well to remember the bamboo tree. Though our expectations are high, we must all put our shoulders to the wheel and work patiently with our pastor to perceive and do the work for Christ that God wants done.

Allen will need our support and prayers over the long haul. Patiently we need to love Allen and his family, and love one another, so that the power of Christ can weld us together with cords that cannot be broken. In due season, we shall reap a good harvest because God keeps his promises. God’s work done in God’s way will produce a great church that honors Christ and blesses us all. + + +