Below is a great encouragement from Pat – in his own words…
Hi. I’m Pat Nickel. I served on the Leadership Team here at Church on Mill, and I continue to serve as a deacon and as a youth teacher. My wife Lauri and I came to Church on Mill some 38 years ago this month, knowing practically nothing about church life except what we saw in practice in El Centro. I did have brief exposure to another church when I had a job out of town the summer before, which I can’t say impressed me much.
When we came here, Henry Smart was pastor, and we saw his love for the gospel and people. He led the church in community outreach with the support of a small church staff. He used his home in ministry. We also got to know the staff and deacons, but as far as teaching and modeling what it means to be a pastor, Henry was our model. Over the years, we have had other pastors and staff who demonstrated similar submission to Jesus as their Lord, and led with the commitment to faithfully follow His model as servant. When I think about it, there were some who maybe weren’t so humble, but that hasn’t been the norm.
Maybe a year or two into my work with junior high, I was challenged to view my ministry as that of a pastor. I was encouraged by some great role models who I watched submit to the Lordship and shepherding of Jesus and His local pastor. This helped me grow in my understanding of a humble shepherd as a person called to serve the body by providing godly instruction and leadership founded in the Word, not to achieve greatness or stature but to grow the body to mature faith and ministry. Sometimes this is painful or at great personal or career risk, but the servants I have spoken with knew God would be faithful through the risk and pain.
I haven’t lived my life only at church, though. I have seen examples of what the world calls leadership and teaching both at ASU and in my workplace. The world teaches at worst that we get ahead at the expense of others, or at best that we get ahead by teaming with others. Self-promotion is a key to success.
But the Bible says to push others ahead at your own expense, or team with others so they can grow. Philippians 2:3 tells us to do nothing from selfish ambition, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves. A humble shepherd exudes humility in the middle of authoritative preaching and teaching. This stands in stark contrast to the world, and points to God as the One Who changes us.
Some time ago we decided as a church to expand the pastoral leadership of our church to include elders. This includes unpaid men from our members, and call them to share the responsibility and burden of shepherding our members toward mature faith. The key to this is finding men who match up to the biblical model of humble shepherd under Jesus. I know we have men like that here. This change is enables them to fulfill the purpose God had when He matured them and gave them the gifts He chose. I believe our church body will benefit tremendously by having multiple godly men caring for us, teaching us, praying for our good, holding each other accountable for right living, and encouraging each other through the burdens of pastoring.