The Crusader Newspaper Group

The best time ever to show love for pastors

Vernon Williams

October is “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Never has gratitude for church leadership been more warranted than in 2021, given the worldwide devastation of the past two years; a period during which one out of every four men and women of God considered relinquishing their awesome duties. Many couldn’t cope and walked away from the pulpit.

The world since early 2020 has been more grueling than any of us could have ever imagined. Anyone in their right mind knows that surviving this ordeal had nothing to do with them; that those who made it through the storm owe it to nothing less than the grace of an omnipotent God.

At the front of the pandemic were of course, first responders and essential workers, medical professionals, hospital and health facility staff, emergency medical technicians, police and firefighters, nursing home staff, retail and service employees, as well as educators, who made certain body and mind were sustained.

Prominent in that mix, somewhere near the top, is the tremendous role played by those responsible for shepherding the spiritual needs of faith-based flocks around the country. These individuals assured the connectivity of mind, body and soul – leadership of the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues and temples.

Pastors had to face the unprecedented challenge of being barred from physically visiting and praying for those of their congregation who fell ill. Even more tragically, as their beloved dearest members perished, they were unable to offer a shoulder to their families and grieve face-to-face with loved ones. Funerals were prohibited, then restricted.

Even among the healthy, pastors had to provide comfort to anxious members fearing their own fate in a global crisis. Many experienced “decision fatigue” and “ministerial frustration” over the constant stress of balancing the need to maintain faith in God and hope for the future with the bombardment of news and social media on worsening conditions.

Keeping the ministry afloat was a quandary during a time when live worship services were banned by law. The day-to-day issues associated with running the church mounted as the national divide over the appropriate response to COVID-19 and the vaccination dilemma found its way from the streets and social media into the pews.

There was nothing that could compare to that crisis in at least a hundred years and some left the ministry altogether, unable or unwilling to cope, and many churches closed. In some highly-publicized instances of defiance, there were pastors who ignored the science of coronavirus, and many who complied with the protocols lost their lives.

There is a saying that all politics is local. Likewise, our global religious reality boils down to how we define, interpret and function within our personal worship experience.

The shining example of a pastor worthy of praise is my Senior Pastor Bishop Lambert Wade Gates, Sr. of Kingdom Apostolic Ministries (KAM) with locations in Detroit, Indianapolis and Marion, Indiana.

Most people deem their high school the best, their grandchildren the smartest and cutest, their role models infallible, and their sainted mother, grandmother or favorite auntie the best chefs in the annals of culinary pleasure. So while it may seem natural for me to heap laurels on my own spiritual leader, there are myriad objective factors to justify his accolades.

In addition to maintaining three physical locations, Bishop Gates launched what he calls the church’s “E-Campus,” virtual membership across the nation as a result of highly effective streaming of both Sunday services, weekly Bible class and a string of internet conferences, individual help sessions, youth activities and special events.

KAM (formerly Mt. Zion Apostolic Church Indianapolis and Greater Apostolic Faith Temple Detroit) kept a vigorous wellness check of members throughout the period.

Bishop Gates has the double responsibility of serving as Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith International. He is an outstanding teacher of the Word of God and in demand as a speaker among congregations nationally and in other countries. Though highly regarded for his powerful delivery and understanding, he remains giving, approachable, congenial and relatable with all he encounters.

His colleagues call him a “preacher’s preacher” for his fiery and charismatic sermons. But those in his midst at the lay level add that he is equally “a people’s preacher” combining strong character and virtue with a kind heart.

Finally, Bishop Gates is keenly aware of the moral authority of his position and incorporates relative social issues into preaching the gospel. He spoke out on the controversial pleas for justice for Black Americans; denounced the insensitivity of government officials detached from the people; coordinated several outreach projects for troubled African nations and Haiti; urged congregational support of the battle to combat breast cancer and other critical health issues; promoted COVID vaccinations and precautions, and most recently led his church down the “green path” of environmental consciousness – just to name a few projects. He believes emphatically the scripture passage that faith without works is dead.

There are pastors doing similar work throughout the nation. We should all take the time to express our gratitude for their willingness to join in those efforts in service to Christ.

“Pastor Appreciation Month” seems an ideal time to rededicate ourselves to that commitment and to do something special to let church leadership know we appreciate the light that they have been out of this global darkness. Thank you, pastors everywhere.

And a personal thank you to BISHOP LAMBERT WADE GATES, SR.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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