Another Voice Silenced

I never knew Chuck Colson personally, but I’ll miss him.  I found his voice to be one of deep insight and integrity in the evangelical community.  His books and daily commentaries helped me navigate my way through our society’s moral morass.  The news of his death this past weekend has evoked in me a strange sort of grief.   Who will the American church turn to now?

That got me to thinking of times throughout Christian history when a great leader died.  Did people wonder what the Church would do now without Augustine?  How the Protestant Reformation would continue without Martin Luther?  If the Methodist church could possibly thrive without the leadership of John Wesley?

In smaller ways, we are prone to ask the same sorts of questions in our local assemblies.  What will we do without Pastor _____?  How can we ever go on without this music leader or that Sunday School teacher?  Will our church ever be the same now that saintly sister so-and-so has gone to be with the Lord?  When I left two previous pastorates to accept a new assignment, there were a few people in those churches predicting their quick demise (while others no doubt were quietly celebrating!).

What do we do when another voice is silenced?  The Lord answered my question this morning in my daily psalm-reading: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing” (Psalm 146:3-4).  The Psalmist makes no distinction between good leaders and bad leaders in this passage.  One day they will be gone, and along with them, all of their carefully-conceived plans.

So how do we deal with this reality?  In the very next breath, the writer says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”  His is the only voice that will never be silenced.  His are the only plans that will never crumble to dust.  If we put our trust in any leader but Him, we will ultimately be disappointed.

It’s a helpful reminder that no human leader is indispensable.  That includes me as a twelve-year pastor of my current church.  The Lord is capable of raising up a Joshua to succeed a Moses, a Billy Graham to succeed a Dwight L. Moody, or a _________ to succeed Chuck Colson.  Someday someone will take my place — and quite capably.

Let me speak for all of us Christian leaders: please don’t cling too tightly.

About Pastor Dennis

I started following Christ as a senior in high school. My wife Cheryl and I have been married since 1979 and have three grown sons. I have pastored three churches during 27 years of ministry, including my current assignment in Owego, NY. I enjoy reading, running, hiking, and all kinds of music.
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15 Responses to Another Voice Silenced

  1. Janet says:

    The CNN article I read described Mr Colson as someone who had “reinvented himself” as an evangelical Christian. I read it aloud indignantly to Doug, and he said, “Jesus Christ reinvented him 2,000 years ago.” Amen to that. It’s God who sums up the worth of a man’s life. I believe he’s saying “well done” to Chuck Colson.

    • Pastor Dennis says:

      Hi, Janet. It’s interesting how the world struggles to comprehend a life that has been transformed by Jesus Christ. May there be many more of us whose lives have been “reinvented” beyond the world’s ability to explain!

  2. Amanda says:

    I noticed that when I was preparing to leave my youth pastorate, there were many around me who were talking that way (“Whatever will we do without you?!”)…while as you said, I’m sure others may have been rejoicing just a little bit. LOL. But God loves and takes care of that youth ministry, and those people, better than I ever could…and he has continued to do so by raising up other leaders and allowing them to change and move forward. It’s a good reminder to us — WHOSE ministry we are really participating in!

    • Pastor Dennis says:

      It’s a tricky thing, Amanda — to lead a group of people without creating within them a sense of dependency upon us. One of the keys, I’ve learned, is to raise up other leaders and allow them to take responsibilities instead of us doing it all ourselves — something I continually need to work on.

  3. Polly says:

    It’s a good reminder. I think we can sometimes find ourselves following a person instead of Christ. And when one powerful voice for God is silenced maybe that’s a good time for the rest of us to lean in real close and listen for God’s voice to us, our time, our place.

    • Pastor Dennis says:

      I really like that, Polly — leaning in and listening for God’s voice to us when one of those secondary voices is silenced. It makes me think of Joshua chapter one when the Lord speaks rather directly to an intimidated Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead” and then gives him instructions for moving the nation forward. Praise God that He still speaks to those who are leaning in to listen.

  4. Rhea Montague says:

    When we fall into the trap of believing/feeling we are indispensable we forget that, by His grace, the Lord put us where we are. He doesn’t need us (Jesus told the Pharisees that “the stones would immediately cry out” if the people were silent) but He uses us. Elijah, on the other hand, didn’t think he was indispensable; he thought he was all alone. The Lord assured him that there were 7,000 others. The point is, the Lord always has someone who can take our place. He remains faithful.

  5. Steve Savacool says:

    It amazes me how God can use mortal men to do His work on earth and they don’t have to be perfect. King David sinned and failed God but God still used him. Paul described himself as the greatest of sinners and yet he was argueably the greatest Christian missionary of all time. God used Chuck Colson, a convicted felon, to reach many for Christ and teach us the meaning of having a “Christian World View”. Every Christian from the apostles to the local Pastor, to the humblest “everyday Christian” will leave a legacy for others to follow. The Church was here before us and it will continue on after we are gone. Our job is to serve to the best of our ability in whatever place God has put us. Our legacy may be great like Luther or Wesley or Moody or it may be less visible, but if it is leading one person to Christ, or being a leader and example to our families, if it is what god has given us to do then that is great in His eyes. God will always raise up someone else to pick up the mantle and carry on the work.

    • Pastor Dennis says:

      I agree, Steve. It’s like we were talking about last night at Deep Roots — God is looking for people who serve Him faithfully in the quiet, obscure, “hidden valleys” of life.

  6. Tina Hunt says:

    I, too, sensed a loss at Chuck Colson’s passing. That and this post has given me pause to reflect on our personal “legacies”. We may not reach as many but will our faith impact those we do? And perhaps we need to let others know the impact they’ve made on us while they have ears to hear and a heart that might need encouragement to keep on being faithful!

    • Pastor Dennis says:

      You’re right, Tina. While we’re talking about it, thanks to you and Nelson for your wonderful encouragement and support to our family during our years in Urbana. We cherish the friendships we formed there.

  7. Gary Reiss says:

    Well said Dennis. This is a great reminder for all of us.

    • Pastor Dennis says:

      Thank you, Gary. You and Tammy are still at the same church in Michigan, right? What a wonderful legacy you’re leaving for the people there!

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