Volume 19 Issue 1
At the recent general conference, I saw some young men energetically walking through the hotel lobby. As I watched them make their way through the crowd, they almost knocked down Brother and Sister Bennie DeMerchant. The young men did not know who the DeMerchants were, and certainly they did not mean them any harm. Muttering an apology, they continued on their playful journey. But it was sad, for me, to see them nonchalantly pass by the DeMerchants, knowing that they were oblivious to whom they had just encountered. Likely, if it had been a TV personality or a pop singer they would have known them, and would have clamored for their autograph. This great man, however, was to them just another old preacher or some nondescript conference attendee. Sadly, they just missed an opportunity to meet a national hero of Brazil, and a legendary figure in the United Pentecostal Church.
The DeMerchants are living out one of the most stunning careers in the Christian world. Bro. DeMerchant is an elder of unprecedented success, personality, wit and genius, all of immeasurable scope. An airplane pilot, adventurer, and explorer, he is widely recognized by the nation of Brazil for his expertise on life along the great Amazon River. The DeMerchants have rare access to the ancient deep regions of the worlds most formidable tropical jungle with its lure, unique environmental importance, and primitive peoples. And they are leaders of a major segment of the Apostolic Revival in the southern Hemisphere. However, beyond pastors and the small number of churches they are able to visit, few people really know much about them. The DeMerchants do not have a publicity department or a public relations handler to promote their work. Our young people pick heroes with or without our guidance. Most of time, they choose those who are selected for them through huge publicity operations, unconscious that their minds and emotions are being manipulated. They process the information they are given.
When we ignore the Bibles admonition concerning ministry, (1Th 5:13) And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. [And] be at peace among yourselves.we are ignoring something quite important, especially in relation to how it impacts our young people. When we are fearful of acknowledging (maybe because of jealously or bad manners) that we do indeed have heroes in the work of the ministry, great men and women, outstanding examples of achievement, and we carelessly fail to esteem them very highly, we are diminishing a young persons interest in the ministry. Youth aspire to be great, to be useful; they want to live an exciting life. They want to feel that their life choices will be admired.
Even a casual ponderance of Christian ministry leads to the conclusion that anyone who has established a church or has ministered faithfully over a lifetime is worthy of the deepest respect.
The reason? Ministry is a long arduous journey. It requires training. It requires stamina. Courage. Perseverance. Hard work. And all this (and more) over a long period of time. Elders who have distinguished themselves and proven their callings are worthy of high honor. Churches should respect their work and point it out to the youth as an example. When I drive into a city and see a beautiful church building and a group of people working together, sharing vision, and loving one another, for me its a spectacular sight. It is truly something of note that never happens by accident. It is like mountain climbing: a climber does not awaken one morning on the top of Mt. Everest and have to ask, how did this happen?
If one has been faithful and made it, so to speak, he or she has a clear recall about the nature of the journey. Every step is burned into their memory. Those who have won converts to Christ, built congregations and established different ministries know the price theyve paid. An outsider, a casual observer or a beginner might foolishly dismiss it as insignificant. But the cost, the sacrifice, the pain reflects a sacred struggle and holy war against real enemies in an effort to lift up the name of Jesus. Those who have demonstrated faithful service in this work are worthy of double honor. Their success should be studied.
The past couple of years, our superintendent, Kenneth Haney, has asked me and others to read biographical summaries preceding the presentation of the medals given to selected Elders in the UPCIs Order of The Faith. I compliment Bro. Haney for this special program to honor our most distinguished elders.
Most of these honorees are people that I have known for years, and yet when I read the story of their lives condensed to a couple of pages, it overwhelms my emotions. Their journeys are amazing. Their walk of faith and their triumphs in overcoming impossible situations is inspiring. My feelings of respect grow during these ceremonies. These men and women are champions. They are tops in their field. But I cannot help but wonder if our young people really understand what these men and women have accomplished.
Young people will have their heroes, real or fictional. They will admire something. They will pattern their lives according to some template. Shame on us for not giving more time to exalt the accomplishments of the hundreds of outstanding people in our Apostolic fellowship. No wonder the young people seldom sense the presence of heroes; more likely than not they have never heard their stories, or even heard proper introductions that include a summary of their accomplishments. May we all be in constant praise of good men and women. Our godly fathers and mothers and our anointed elders are a special gift from God.