Still The Safest Place on Earth
There is nothing like the love and warmth of a healthy, loving, local church. In a world that's raining bullets, its still the safest place on earth. The image of First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs haunts me. A pristine house of worship; an embassy for the Prince of Peace. Evil confronts with violent rage. The ugly carnage exposes the truth. Unconquerable love will win the day. My friend, Dr Jeannie Killian, posted on Sunday, "You know the saddest thing about today's mass shooting? That we have to use the word "today's." " As a pastor, this one hits close to home.
I am writing through the tears of a pastor who is hurting for another pastor. Frankly, I need a pastor right now. The minister who is helping me through this the most is none other than Rev Frank Pomeroy, the pastor of this devastated congregation. I'm sorry to say that all ministers have not been helpful. I was not helped by the blowhard megachurch pastor on a major network who was interviewed as a representative of "the church." He was completely tone deaf to the moment. All he could do was to gloat about how President Trump was such a wonderful "comforter in chief" and suggest that every church in America needs armed guards because we are such "soft targets."
Really? The answer to violence is to get into an arms race with evil? I understand that security in churches must be addressed, but our first instinct should be welcoming people in, rather than securing our borders. The greatest weapon of the church is and always will be non retaliatory love. Its the kind of love I have witnessed in Pastor Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs Texas.
If you want to know what a pastor looks like, check out Pastor Pomeroy. His church may not be large, but on a good Sunday about 20 percent of the population of his town attends his church. He wasn't always a pastor. Apparently, according to his sermon the Sunday before the shooting, he was a heathen who nobody would have believed could "get saved" let alone become a pastor.
I watched the entire church service from October 29, the Sunday before the shooting. I and 138,000 people, in fact, have watched it so far on YouTube. I watched Bobby and Shani Corrigan help lead worship that morning. It was hard to watch knowing they were two of victims of the shooting the following week.
Their praise team won't win any Dove Awards, Their harmonies could be tighter and they could use some cool lighting and fog machines but the sincerity of their worship ushered me into God's Presence.
I watched Pastor Frank announce the Fall Festival and tell us that Halloween was also the Lord's day. He asked people to bring 2 liter soda bottles for a "ring toss" and asked people to bake cakes for the cake walk. He was quick to add, however, that if you bring nothing at all, please come and enjoy the evening with your kids and grandkids. He suggested that those with no kids could just come and watch.
After some more passionate worship, it was pastor's to preach. Pastor Frank preached a very creative and helpful message. His words seemed prophetic now that we know what happened the following week. His message was about leaning on God, in situations that we don't understand. I needed this Word. He brought his motorcycle to church and had it sitting right in front of the altar. He made a great analogy between riding a motorcycle and living by faith.
His text was from Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding." He took the next half hour encouraging us to "lean in" to Jesus when life throws us curves. He showed a video of the fastest motorcycles in the world and showed how the drivers lean almost to to the pavement on curves. You explained how bikers leaning makes the bike easier to control. Pastor Frank explained centrical and how it keeps the bike from tipping when you lean it. He talked about how it goes against our natural instincts to "lean." and compared this to leaning on the Lord when it doesn't make sense. Amen Pastor Frank! Amen!
Pastor then talked about the importance of looking towards your destination instead of focusing on the curve. He said that looking at the curves gives bikers vertigo and causes them to fall. The message encouraged us to keep our eyes on the prize when we are going through the curves life throws at us.
He even told the story of C.S. Lewis becoming a Christian on a motorcycle when he was on his way to the zoo. Lewis wasn't a believer when he started the trip but was a believer when he arrived. I have to admit, I didn't expect a South Texas rural pastor to be quoting Lewis. Forgive me for my own prejudices.
Finally, Pastor Frank exulted in the freedom he felt while riding his Harley. There was something about the joyful way he described the exhilaration of riding a motorcycle and serving Jesus that made me want to ride on this journey of faith with him.
I could hardly breathe as he described his ride to church that morning on his bike with his daughter Belle on the back watching the beautiful Texas sunrise together. Pastor Frank sounds like a great dad. I can't imagine his loss after discovering his beloved Belle was one of those who perished. The newscaster I heard announce it acted surprised a young girl would go to church when her parents were away. I'm not surprised, however, after getting to know Frank better. He made church and living for Jesus sound so exhilarating. He concluded that sermon by inviting any of the kids or adults to come forward and have their picture taken on his "bike". The love and tenderness with which he spoke about the kids, reminded me of one who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven." I apologize for the old English, but I memoized that one as a boy in the King James Version.
I'm sure Pastor Frank must be suffering survivors guilt, but I believe he was spared for a reason. We need Frank Pomeroy. America needs more pastors than him. Sadly, the church has come to be defined about how we come down on various social issues of the day. I heard no talk of social issues in Bro. Frank's church. I only heard and witnessed the love of Jesus who gives meaning to our lives and gets us through the curves of life.
I'm not even Baptist, but if I lived in this little town, I'd probably be at Sutherland Springs FBC. The surviving members of the church are already using the Christian "F" word. Forgive. The inexplicable love of Jesus is shining through people who have every right to be bitter and disillusioned. I'm blessed by the love of other Christ followers. I was happy to see the Southern Baptist denomination has offered to pay all funeral expenses. I pray that beauty comes out of your ashes, the oil of gladness will someday replace your mourning.
I just want to say I love you dear brother. You don't have to be strong right now. You have already told us what to do. Lean in and keep your eyes on the destination. Your love, your life, and your legacy has touched my soul.
With deep respect,
Pastor Phil Nordstrom
Life Church Knoxville
We're an inter denominational church in Knoxville, Tennessee that believes that all people matter and should experience the love and power that comes along with a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.