The Influence of One Life

In the Spring of 1991, I was finishing my last semester of seminary, taking ordination exams, and looking for a church to serve. I interviewed with churches that spanned the country from Denver, Colorado to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, it was a phone call that came out of the blue from a church I had not even known about that forever changed my life.

The Associate Pastor search committee from the Lexington Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Virginia had read my profile page in a book of graduating students put together by Union Seminary’s placement office and decided to call me for an interview. So the next Saturday, I drove the 140 miles from Richmond to Lexington for the interview. The morning interview went well, and following the interview, the senior pastor, Randy Harrison, took me to lunch.

We immediately hit it off. We both ordered a reuben sandwich and a Pepsi and then talked for over an hour. When we returned from lunch, the search committee and Randy had a brief meeting. The next thing I knew, they had offered me the position. I asked for time to prayerfully consider it, but I knew as I left to return to Richmond, that I was going to accept the call.

I started with the church in July that summer, and I realized immediately that Randy considered me his equal in ministry. After just four weeks at the church, he left for a month to go visit his daughter and her family in France, leaving the care of the church in my very inexperienced hands. When he returned he told me, “you are going to preach every third Sunday. If Easter falls on a third Sunday, you are still going to preach.” He said, “we will take turns with baptisms. I’ll do one, then you’ll do the next.” He was true to his word. I baptized one of his grandchildren! While I was called specifically to do youth and college ministry, Randy believed that I needed experience in everything involved in the pastoral ministry, and he saw to it that it happened.

Over the three and a half years that we served together before his retirement, he became a trusted mentor. I truly learned how to be a pastor from him. Yet more than being a mentor, he became a dear friend. He officiated at Brooke’s and my wedding, and he baptized all three of my children.

Last week, this beautiful, compassionate man who spent 45 years serving the Lord went home to be with the God who created him and called him to serve. While we served together for just a few years of the 26 years I have been in active ministry, that time set the course for my entire ministry.

I think that we often underestimate the influence we can have on another person. Too often we think that we don’t have much to offer someone else. The truth is, however, that a kind word and some intentional attention given to someone can be profoundly meaningful. When we are able to see the God given potential in others and then encourage that potential, we are living out the heart of the gospel.

I encourage each of you to find just one person that you can invest in with words of encouragement and support. You might just change a life!

Grace and peace to you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee