Bill Ellis: Pastors know your appreciation through prayer
This is Pastors Appreciation Month. I have paid attention and listened to preachers for most of my life. It began when I was 13 years old.
I had known a few preachers and listened to them in person or by radio a little earlier, but at 14, I became a Christian and they became very important to me. I did not know anything at all about fulltime pastors until my senior year at Hurricane High school.
The pastors and evangelists who influenced the Ellis, Perry and Hodge families most during my early teen years were Luther B. Mays, a Methodist pastor who lived at Malden, W.Va., and rode the bus each Sunday morning to Decota to preach, 17 miles up Cabin Creek. He did not have an automobile. There was also a Christian Adventist preacher from Elkview named Eugene Huffman. Two Nazarene pastors/evangelists, John Lovell Shinn of Elkview and O. F. Haynes of Charleston, became strong influences for me when I was 16 and 17 years old.
When our family moved to Scott Depot in June, 1947, we met the pastor of the Church of God, Mark L. Haynie, Jr. He came from a Southern Baptist family in Blue Mountain, Miss. He had moved to West Virginia to play semi-pro baseball with a coal company team. He was a brilliant, college-educated man who became a tremendous mentor in my life.
Other pastors were very important to me that year. One was the Rev. Okey B. Hamon of Scott Depot whose son, Don, still lives here. His son, Dick, and I played on the Hurricane High school basketball team. J. Ross Taylor was a prominent pastor who had served the Church of God on Scary Creek and Scott Depot. He was an outstanding preacher who prayed as well as he preached. Another was Pastor J. H. Burchett of the Nitro Church of God. Putnam County Baptist pastors Oscar J. Byrnside and Earl Ted Wall were both important to me.
More than anything else in life, like most pastors, they wanted to do the will of God as preachers. Nobody ever accused them of doing it for the money. They were paid very little and many pastors in those days had to work at something else to pay bills and keep food on the table. That is still what many pastors do. They are called bi-vocational pastors and we have many of them in Putnam County and West Virginia.
They wanted to preach with clarity and power. They knew God had to be intimately involved every time they preached. They had no power of their own.
About the only thing they really asked of their congregation was for earnest prayer in their behalf. They believed God would answer the prayers of a congregation that prayed for their pastor and invited others to hear him preach.
Jesus had promised every believer, clergy and laymen alike, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . ." (Acts 1:8). With that powerful presence and holy living there can be a godly influence in preaching. Your pastor will know he or she is deeply appreciated if you pray for them each day.
Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist who can be reached at P.O. Box 345, Scott Depot, WV 25560; phone 304-757-6089.