Where did the time go?

Bud Reeves

Bud Reeves

By William O. “Bud” Reeves
Special Contributor

I did the math. Numbers don’t lie. I turned 60 the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day. (And was very thankful to do so!) But I’ve been thinking: How did that happen? It seems like yesterday I was in high school, college, seminary, starting out as a pastor. Someone hit the fast-forward button, and here I am, at an age I used to think was SO old.

I’ll admit to some joint pain and getting tired quicker than I used to, but from the neck up, I’m still young, I swear. At least I try to be…

The landscape for the church has changed dramatically in the 36 years I have been in ministry, as it has for our whole culture. It’s been a learning curve of exponential proportions. I should have learned more along the way, but a few things stuck. Claiming no wisdom other than the fact that I have survived, here are a baker’s dozen insights I picked up along the highway.

1. There is no greater peace and pleasure than knowing why you were put on the planet, then living into that calling. I figured out as a young adult that God wanted me to be a pastor, the divine sense of humor being what it is, and I have never wanted to be anything else.

2. No life is more wonderful and frustrating than being a pastor. Sometimes it’s like herding cats—mean cats!—but there is no place you can give and receive love and compassion like you can in a church.

3. The local church is the hope of the world. Bill Hybels said it years ago, and I still believe it. Local congregations are the agency of God to complete the work Christ did on the cross to save the planet.

4. We are teaching our children and grandchildren to be poor disciples. One of the conditions of our active and affluent culture is that church is one of a list of choices we can afford. It is seldom the priority. The old expectation that we should be there every week has become the idea that we should be there unless we have something else—an athletic tournament, dance competition, football weekend, lake party, etc. Disciples can only be made in the context of communities of faith.

5. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. It created, redeemed and sustains the world. Love cannot be extinguished by hate.

6. Relationships are all that matter—with God, family, and friends. People are more important than the to-do list: a hard truth for me to learn. Short of heaven, there is nothing better than a loving family.

7. Grace abounds. When we fall and fail, there is forgiveness. If you are still alive, you can recover from almost anything.

8. Reconciliation, unity, and community are better than division, hostility, and bitterness. You would think this goes without saying, but lately it’s been hard to tell.

9. The basic Christian attitude is hospitality. Our hallmark should be welcome and service, like a good place to eat (which the church often is). We are a diner for the downtrodden, a hospital for the lost, lonely and broken. Our doors and hearts need to stay open to all.

10. Wesleyan Christianity is the Gospel for the 21st century. Biblical grace, piety and social witness, holiness and Holy Spirit—the world so needs this good news!

11. We have a beautiful planet. Shame on us for our bad stewardship, and kudos for the ways we are learning to sustain it.

12. Political systems are temporary; God is eternal. The pendulum swings to and fro. Some of my friends were elated at the recent election; others were devastated. My rookie year as a pastor, I stayed in bed for a day, upset and depressed at the results of an election. This year I got up on Wednesday and went to work. Politics matter, but whoever sits in the Oval Office, Christ is still King.

13. Because of #12, there is no reason to lose hope. Our hope is in the God who created us, the Savior who died for us, and the Holy Spirit that leads us. Advent is in particular a season of hope, as we prepare for the coming of the Best Gift of All. Revival is possible. We can make a positive difference in our families, churches, workplaces, schools, communities, nation and world. There is so much good to work for, and no good reason to give up.

I have been a little nostalgic, reflecting on turning 60, wondering where the time has gone. But I am really more interested in where the time is going. I feel a sense of energy and enthusiasm for what God will do if we allow. I can’t wait to see what I will learn in this seventh decade of life. I’ll let you know!

The Rev. Dr. Reeves serves as senior pastor of First UMC Fort Smith. Email: breeves@arumc.org.