In the presence of spiritual giants

There is one couple who has been a constant in ministry my whole adult life in training for ministry and then ministry. As we have our “last suppers” with friends here in Minnesota, we said goodbye to my spiritual father. 

When I was in college, I found a church to attend when I was a freshman. They were in the midst of a pastoral search and when I left for the summer after my freshman year, they had decided on Larry and Bernice Hale to be their pastors. Pastor Hale came in the summer and when I returned in the fall and introduced myself to him, he immediately put me to work. I would be the Bible quiz coach.

I attended the Anoka Assembly of God (now Riverdale Church) my three years in college and interned with Pastor Hale. Those three years taught me more ministry truths than I could have hoped to have in any pastoral theology class. Pastor Hale had taken a church that was deeply troubled. He knew it coming in and for the three years I was with him I watched a man truly called of God take on problem after problem with grit and grace.

Twenty years ago when it was time to get back into ministry, he was one of my first phone calls. His leadership made a way for us to return to Minnesota. His example from those first three years became the template for my own ministry when I came to Columbia Heights and had to deal with a very troubled church. His advice and prayer was a constant presence.

Every time we get together, it is a deeply spiritual conversation and every one is deeply satisfying. It was no exception last night as we met for one last meal together and he poured into us wisdom from 50 years of ministry.

The spiritual man would rather be useful than famous and would rather serve than be served. And all this must be by the operation of the Holy Spirit within him. No man can become spiritual by himself. Only the free Spirit can make a man spiritual. —AW Tozer

In an era of megachurches and “uber” megachurches, Pastor Hale will be passed by when it comes to acknowledgments. He pastored faithfully. He mentored with care. Spiritual giants don’t always have huge churches. They often sit in quiet restaurants carefully pouring into lives of one or two people at a time. They will sit for hours in a coffee shop listening to new ministers pour out their hearts and then offer key advice.

I am so deeply thankful that my adult life has been in the presence of a spiritual giant. One I can call my spiritual father. He has filled my life with grace and truth and wisdom.

As I knew when I was away from Minnesota years before, he is still only a phone call away. I will miss the quiet conversations face to face, but I will treasure every moment I have in conversation with the spiritual giant God granted me for my entire ministry.


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