The following article is a guest post from Robert McFarland, a retired minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. He served pastorates in Rose Point (PA), Park City, Quinter, and Topeka (KS). He also served as the RPCNA’s Director of Educational Services and Youth Ministry, and the Midwest Presbytery’s Regional Home Missionary. He has been married to Georgia for 60 years, and they have three children, seven grandchildren, and one great grandson.
While attending Geneva College, I took my student teaching in Beaver Falls High School. One day while I was teaching a class the dismissal bell rang. Students needed no benediction to leave the room! I opened my notebook and wrote something down. Miss Cook, my supervising teacher, saw me writing, came up to me and said, “Mr. McFarland, I have noticed you writing down things at the end of your days of teaching. Could I ask what you are writing?” I showed her my page of notes entitled What I learned today about teaching school. That day I had written down: Do not make a homework assignment after the bell rings!
I soon learned that I needed a similar page in the pastorate. Here are only a few things I have learned by experience in my 60 years as an ordained Reformed Presbyterian minister. I have learned much from life and people. I thank God for the counsel of those who taught me. Solomon, the wisest man, wrote, "I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding . . . I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction" (Prov. 24:30-32).
I have learned just how brief life can be. It was our regular monthly session meeting. Elder Dr. McElroy asked to relate to us his recent medical X-ray results. Cancer was spread throughout, and he told us, “The doctor says three months to live or at the most six months.” He died five months later at age 63 (two years younger than me). As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone (Psalm 103:15, 16).
I am not indispensable. The college organizations where I used to be an officer were left behind. The congregation where I served as pastor has a new pastor. The church class of youth whom I taught for years has a new teacher. They are all still functioning well without my involvement. I say to every man there is among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Rom. 12:3).
I learned to be faithful and have courage. After preaching in a service, an older person told me at the door of the church, “If what you said today is true, then I am headed for Hell!” My message that day was on one of the Reformed and distinctive principles of our denomination. Preach the word! Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).
I learned the meaning of ‘servanthood’. It was cold day, and a big truck pulled up to our church building. The driver knocked at our parsonage next door and asked if I knew anybody that could help him unload the new tables he was delivering for the church. I grabbed a coat and met him at the church door. When he saw the six steps leading to the basement, he told me loudly “I don’t do stairs!” I quickly yelled back, “Stairs were not agreed to in my Gospel Call contract either, but hang on! We’re going downstairs!” And we did. Rather silently, I might add. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all (1 Cor. 9:19).