Some thoughts on a pastor who deeply impacted me and taught me so much. Wooded Hills Bible Church in Colgate, Wisconsin I believe was fortunate to have him when he led. Joe Jenkins taught me a lot about scripture, love, grace, faith, and shepherded this soul when I was first an attender and then a member. The mark of a good pastor I would suggest is one that leaves a lasting impact, and I would suggest that a good pastor is one of the finest attributes of Protestantism. However, I also would suggest that the Pastor position is also being threatened. I would like to pursue those problems at a later date. This is a tribute to a pastor who led by love and cared for and guided my soul while pointing to Jesus consistently.
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him”
Pslam 37:23 NIV
“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.”
Proverbs 27:2 NIV
What goes through your mind when you think of a pastor? I honestly believe that a pastor – especially one who is loving, kind, a good teacher, and one actively engaged in the congregation is one of the best selling points of both evangelicalism and Protestantism. I’ve interacted with many pastors and many ministry leaders over the years and there is one in my mind that best resembles the role of pastor and what a pastor can be capable of, so with that said let me talk about one pastor I knew who touched my life, and shepherded my soul.
One of the churches I was involved in and eventually became a member of was Wooded Hills Bible in the small community of Colgate, Wisconsin. Colgate was outside Menominee Falls, in the suburbs of Milwaukee. You would drive through Menominee Falls on Highway 45/41 on the way to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. My church had many issues and things that I struggled with looking back, but its Pastor Joe Jenkins was one of the most engaging and loving pastors that I have interacted with in evangelical Christianity. I was actually attracted to Wooded Hills because of his leadership, humor and involvement. Joe Jenkins as a pastor was warm, loving and kind. He had an incredible sense of humor and self depreciated himself often. He was short, and joked about himself from time to time. His heart was quite big – one of the biggest hearts I encountered – and spoke volumes of his love for people. Wooded Hills, I believe, was incredibly fortunate to have him as their pastor. One time during a praise and worship event at Wooded Hills Bible called “Winds of Worship” my wallet was stolen. I was horrified that a wallet could be stolen in church. On the spot Joe offered to help out and offered some money. I had not expected that to happen at all. In the course of time I learned about some of the charismaticism at Wooded Hills and was intrigued. He actually invited me over to his house one Saturday morning and over pancakes explained the charismaticism at the church, his personal struggle with it, and how he dealt with it. He explained how nerve wracking it was, and how all his theological training really didn’t prepare him for it. This was how I learned about “Third Wave” theology. Joe invited questions from me and was deeply engaging, and he didn’t feel threatened by my questions. In how Joe Jenkins conducted himself my respect and love for him grew in time. In my mind he earned my respect, not because he was a pastor, but because of how he conducted himself, lead the flock and engaged people. I was happy to follow and listen to what he had to said, and be challenged by him. I began to realzie that this is how a pastor should be. A pastor leads by love. One other thing that deeply touched me is that often I was away from home for Thanksgiving and couldn’t travel to Fresno. Joe Jenkins and his family invited me over to their house for Thanksgiving a couple of times. To receive an invitation like that warmed my heart. Then there were times in which he played on the softball team as well, which I helped coach. The softball team was fun, and I had a lot of good memories of that as well.
While Wooded Hills had many ministries that attenders and members served in, Joe made himself available to the congregation. And that included hospital calls, and visiting people who needed help. He was a busy man and also made clear that his time was valuable, and I think many people respected and knew that fact. He went on a mission trip and led a group of church members to Mexico, and also was involved once in an inner city Milwaukee program that did sports activities for inner city people. I remember one time during a talk how Joe felt like the Lord had a great heart for the poor and broken, and said that he was realizing that more and more. For me it was refreshing to see a pastor sometimes say, “I don’t know” or admit mistakes from time to time. This was the mark of true humility in my book. And I have to share something here, when I hit bottom in May 2013 from a false accusation I eventually approached 140 people to ask for forgiveness. It was when I was moving away from atheism/agnosticism and back to Christianity. While I give the Holy Spirit the credit for this act of repentance I also remembered a fleeting conversation once with Joe Jenkins in which he told me that after he took over the pastorship of Wooded Hills he made sure that either the people/Elders (I can’t remember the details) repent and clean up broken relationships, animosity and hurt. I find it ironic that 10 to 12 years later after that conversation that I would do something similar in my own life. Maybe approaching 140 people is a legacy of Joe’s teaching and guidance on my life. Joe and his wife I reconciled with as I was working through my list of people and I wanted to see if I had hurt them as I met them in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Finally I also remember the time before his sermon that he cried in front of the church because he dropped off his son at the airport. His son, Josiah, was a member of the Wisconsin National Guard and he was deploying to Iraq as part of the Iraqi Freedom. In his actions Joe also showed his vulnerability as well.
Joe also struggled with his job and the stress of it. He made it clear that he struggled with the demands of the job and being caught between two sides of view (cessessionists and non-cessessionists) in a Third Wave church. Despite that I felt that he conducted himself well, and as I look back on my life and the journey I had I am grateful that my life crossed paths with Joe Jenkins and his family. When it came time to leave Wooded Hills and move to Washington, D.C. Joe and I met in a diner and had breakfast. It was a time to bid farewell, and over breakfast he asked me a lot of questions about the church. How did I view it? How was his teaching? Were there any issues that I needed to bring to his attention? How did he do his job as a pastor? It was questions like that, and with his interaction I knew I was leaving a church that had a great man at the helm who did his job well. I deeply appreciated the fact that Pastor Joe regularly and routinely pointed to the Lord in his preaching, teaching and life. Now it would be unfair to compare all other pastors or other people I met to Joe Jenkins. However as I moved forward in life I looked for church leaders who had some of the same characteristics as Joe Jenkins. Loving, kind, humorous, generous, involved in their congregation, great teaching, are some of the marks of what I think are a good pastor.
I believe that the evangelical pastor today is in dire straights. There are many red flags that I see as I have popped in churches and looked. I want to explore these issues in another journal entry. Some of those issues include the following:
- Unhealthy obsession with authority, an authority that I would suggest is often devoid of love.
- Some pastors who are obsessed with growth and as a result making growth an idol. Faith is not about numbers, its about shepherding and working with the sheep. Can a pastor lead a flock and disciple it when its intentionally being driven into the thousands?
- Some pastors who have turned to training, leadership and development programs that really belong more in corporate America and companies like IBM, General Electric, American Honda Motors, Nissan Motors, etc…
- There are some pastors who are profiting from their pulpit and I believe are prostituting it. They are using it to sell books, promote their materials and support either the Reformed Industrial Complex or the Evangelical Industrial Complex.
- Celebrity pastors have become needlessly divisive and the idea of a celebrity Christian I would suggest is an oxymoron. I already wrote about John Piper and will write more, however I also plan to write about Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney and Mark Driscoll. There is much to say about the problems of celebrity pastors.
But the point of today’s journal entry is to focus on what a kind and loving pastor can do. If you want to journal or write about a loving pastor that helped you in your life, feel free to write below. In closing I would like to end with Michael W. Smith’s “Kentucky Rose.”