During the 2013–14 Focus Retreats, participants penned a one-page letter to their Timothy, or spiritual son, giving their final words of what they value most and what they hope he learned from their example. Below is the letter from Greg Howell, senior pastor at Community Grace Brethren Church in Goldendale, Wash., who died in November after a battle with COVID-19. Pastor Greg wrote the following letter on May 20, 2014.
My dear son,
I realize you will be serving Christ in a world far different than the one where I was trained and first released into ministry. Your methods, your dress, your vocabulary, the technologies you use, and even the problems you face may have little in common with the world I knew, or even the world in which we both minister today. You will be a faithful servant of Christ not because you mimic my words or imitate my ministry style, but because you live out the timeless values we share – values that come to us from the Word of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So while I still have the opportunity, I want to take a few minutes to summarize in writing the values and life lessons I have attempted to live out before you and most want to pass on to you.
There will be days when you wonder…
- if you really have been called
- if you really have been called to “here”
- if you really are still called
- if I told you the whole story
- if I told you the whole truth about ministry
- It is worth it?
There will be days when you say or think:
- “I thought that the church would be bigger (at least by now), or the people kinder, or ministry would be easier.”
- “How come others have loving people, or a better salary, or staff, or a better location?”
But it’s not about you, it is all about Jesus. In fact your whole ministry, life, and faith are not about you, but really all about pleasing Jesus!
Don’t copy me, except where I mimic Christ–otherwise you will pick up all my bad habits and few of my good ones.
Love people. Love Jesus. Read and pray when you don’t have to (such as to prepare for next lesson or sermon).
Be a student of the Word, but don’t flaunt your knowledge, or your learning, or your degrees, or your Greek.
Remember and practice John Maxwell’s advice: “Your people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Don’t forget the power of the Holy Spirit. “Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world.” He will intervene, interpret, and convince and convict in all the right ways and often without our help as we try to redirect people.
Jesus increased in four realms in a balanced way–wisdom, stature, favor with God and man (Lk 2:52). Work extra in the areas you are weak in so that you are balanced.
- read for fun –biographies of Christians & leaders
- have a wholesome hobby, especially if you can share it with your wife.
- schedule time for family and time “off”
- Date your wife and your daughters
- Play ball and wrestle with your sons
- have some friends that aren’t part of “work”
- make sure you are accountable to another mature male friend or small group of spiritual men. Expect them to ask the hard questions.
It is easy to get overwhelmed. My favorite comforting biblical phrase: “And it came to pass.” Ask yourself; “How will the present problem affect eternity or even five years from now.” Don’t be pessimistic like me.
Keep in mind that Jesus is the ultimate judge, not the people who agree or don’t agree with you – or like or don’t like you. Let your motivation be that you will someday stand before Jesus and give an answer for your decisions and actions.
Tithe your time, pay forward or repay those who went before or invested in you. That’s why I invest every year in summer Camp ministry.
Your wife should be your best friend. Constantly cultivate that relationship. Colleen and I chose our life verse while we were dating, before we got engaged: Matthew 6:33 (NASB): “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
At the time we didn’t realize the most valuable of those “things” would be our nine children and 10+ grandchildren (11th due in October). A parallel verse in the Old Testament is one of my favorites, Psalm 37:4 (NASB): “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
And my Life verse is similar: Philippians 1:6: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Please remember me as being faithful, steadfast, and loyal.