With it being Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought I’d take some time to pay tribute to the man who has been my pastor for almost a quarter of a century. Gary Grogan has played so many roles in my life: shepherd, boss, friend, spiritual father, and mentor. So much of who I am as a minister and a Christ follower have been patterned after his life.
I remember years ago, a friend of mine who was directing a discipleship program for young adults had one of his protégés tell him straight to his face “I don’t want to be anything like you.” That must have hurt badly for him, especially when we pour so much into people’s lives. Another time I was working with a pastor in Coventry, England who told me he’d heard so much about Pastor Grogan and wished he could meet him. Then he paid me the biggest compliment in saying, “But I assume if he’s the mentor that everyone says, I have a good indication of what he’s like by watching you.” Contrary to what that punk said, I want to be like PG. People have told me through the years, “You sound like him, pray like him, and preach like him.” I can attribute my success to him, who I am and who I’ve become. It has been a privilege to watch him dream, have him encourage my dreams, and the opportunity to dream with him.
If there was a verse that summed up his life, it would be Psalm 71:17-18: “O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I have constantly told others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.” This has been his passion as long as I’ve know him, mentoring young men and women in the things of God. I think of people like Wayne and Kristi Northup, Ricky Spindler, Paul Hinzman, Eddie De La Rosa, the Meschnarks, the Beards, the Fryers, the list goes on endlessly.
Here’s the first of 10 things I’ve learned from his example…
10. Be a Giver not a Taker. In a world that’s consumed with consuming, his life has been investing. He taught me how to tithe but he also taught me how to be generous. Rich or poor, now I want to give. Give out of your abundance, give out of your need, give when it seems ridiculous.
9. Be Broken not Boastful. Too many people want to take credit for what God is doing. “Look at me, at what I’ve done, at what I’ve accomplished. What’s in it for me? How much will I get paid?” Meh, let God promote you. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:36).
8. Be Correctable not Capable. We need to be quick to admit when we’re wrong; swallow our pride. We don’t know it all and must always leave room for change, growth, and learning. Textbook answers won’t get us through life; they’ll guide we but you need to glean others’ experiences and lifelong wisdom. One of the first things he said to me was “Keep yourself teachable and correctable, open and broken.” Yessir!
7. It’s about Character not Charisma. Giftings and talents don’t cut it in the long haul. They get you in the door. Character allows you to stay and get planted. I’ve seen too many people disqualified because they depended on their abilities; people who were gifted, sharp, intelligent but grossly lacking in character and the fruit of the Spirit. Young interns always beg, “C’mon, let me preach, lead, do what you do…” First show us you can pray, that you go after God, that you’re same person in the pulpit as you are on Monday morning, and that you know how to pick up a broom.
6. Be faithful not fearful. When the money doesn’t come in, when the congregation doesn’t grow, when there’s little response, stay focused on the vision and simply do what God said. PG often quotes Pastor Ernie Moen: “Preach, pray, and plug away.” Persevere! Endure! Don’t give up!
To be continued…