I had spent years in a Bible College preparing for this day, studying systematic theology, Old Testament history, homiletics, hermeneutics, focused studies of a number of Bible books and a mind-numbing, seemingly endless, number of months focusing entirely on the symbolism of the Old Testament Tabernacle.
Most of it was good, foundational stuff, the one exception being the Tabernacle classes which have been of precious little use to me in any shape or form in the 40+ years since I sat and listened to dear old John Carter’s lectures.
The Big Gap
The big gap in the whole course, designed specifically to prepare people for pastoral ministry in the denomination, was a bit of basic information about how to actually do the job, should any unsuspecting congregation be gracious or dumb enough to take you on.
So when I arrived in Birtley, all I knew to do was what I had seen my pastors do and thankfully I had sat under two outstanding leaders during my teenage years.
Copying Others Ultimately Fails
I tried to preach like Terry Hanford, mimicking his Welsh passion as I shared God’s word and gave an altar call. Then I did everything I could to care for the people like Don Walker, my first pastor. Add into that mix that I was influenced too by a great pastor in the nearest major city, Herbert Harrison, who came over to see me in Birtley one day and told me the key to developing his large church was house to house visitation.
So I shouted more than Terry, drank more cups of tea with old ladies than Don and the day after my meeting with Herbert I went ringing door bells to introduce myself to uninterested homeowners and invite them to our dying church – something I hated doing with a passion.
But you can’t spend your life being someone else, nor can you try to morph into the person who will satisfy the varying demands of every member of your congregation.
It took me six or seven years until I was brave enough to be myself, to live like Roger, act like Roger, preach like Roger and pastor like Roger.
The Real Me
That means there are some things I’m good at, some I’m working on and others I’m never even going to try because they’re just not me.
By the way, that was about the time when I dropped the whole “title” thing. I decided I am Roger and pastoring is what I do. I am not Pastor Blackmore, Pastor Roger, Reverend Blackmore or anybody else. I started being Roger first and pastoring second.
No More Games
So another thing that has kept me going is that I’m not playing pastors – and there’s a ridiculous amount of that around – I’m just me.
I love my family. I struggle with my weight. I talk too much. I mean well, but don’t always produce. I love speaking to a crowd, but tend to be an introvert when away from that. I like baseball. I love helping others. Travel exhausts me, but excites me. I’m not a great team player. I’m a dreamer, a visionary, an optimist. I can’t sit still for long. I don’t see that I’m getting older. I love ice cream. My sanctification is easily challenged by other drivers. I always put the toilet seat down. I drink inordinate amounts of coffee. Indian food is my favorite. I love going to Montauk Point with my wife and a book. Did I say I love my family?
Take it or leave it – that’s me and that’s who I’m going to be!