Taking Me Out of Pastoral Legalism (Thank You, Cecil)

Thank you, Cecil, for patiently taking me out of my pastoral legalism.

We live in a microwave society. What you want things immediately. If they don’t come immediately, then we go to the other extreme and become so despondent, that life becomes almost unbearable. And sadly enough, we don’t recognize the issues of our own heart that’s causing this impatience and, thus, start blaming other people for not moving in our timing.

It’s a form of legalism. How so? Legalism this when we began to impose a law on someone else in order for them to be righteous. The Pharisees expressed a form of legalism in which they took a diluted law of Moses , and impose it on the people for them to approve they’re righteousness before God and before them. If they did not rise to their standard, they would be mocked, ridiculed, and possibly excommunicated from the temple.

When pastors are impatient, they are usually impatient because they have a set of changes that they wish to implement quickly, but if this is too fast for the culture of the church, the impatient pastor does not look inside to shepherd the People at a good pace, but looks outwardly with chagrin that those who are not following his pastoral pace. Thus, impatient  pastor sees them as the ones to blame for not following his lead,, when the shepherds are to lead one step ahead of the Sheep, and not 10 or 100.

About four years ago, I visited my former church for a funeral recently. It had been two and half years since I’d visited the church , and I had the opportunity to see my old church family and bring back some precious memories of that time.

But I also remember my impatience coming out of seminary. I had studied under the finest theological minds on the planet. I was ready to use all of my knowledge and impart it on the very fortunate congregation that called me pastor.

I shudder to this day on my first two years there.  Early 30s and knew everything.

My friend Cecil Short, the one who lost his wife at that funeral, took me under his wing and showed me so much about being a pastor. Cecil lived just up the road from the church. I remembered a conversation we had soon after I came about him thinking of stepping down as a deacon.  Why? His age.  I told him, “Cecil, I need your wisdom. Please stay on.” And gratefully, he did, and for eight years, we served Jesus together in that little town outside of Lexington, Kentucky.  And anytime I found myself in a pickle or just needing to vent, I would come to his house, Ann would bring me a Diet Mountain Dew, and we’d sit on the back porch and sort it all out.

Yes, he was a deacon. No he was not a pastor or preacher. No, he wasn’t belligerent in how he taught me. He simply questioned, made me think, offered general advice when I came to his house almost in tears as to why the church wasn’t  following my lead.

He showed me how to love, to be patient, and that pastor meant shepherding and caring, not just expecting others to follow my lead because I had the title.

Thank you, Cecil.  You are my friend who is over 40 years my senior.  Thanks for shaping that green pastor patiently and modeling a patience for me. I’ll never, ever forget you, Ann, your sweet family, and how patient you were with me.


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