Ode to a Great Pastor

(Written in honor of my pastor’s retirement on February 27, 2011 – also his 65th birthday)

So it was about 18 years ago that I was introduced to Don Chasteen at Red Lobster in South Durham. He was about 5 years younger than I am now. I was a 34 year old stud (even still had some hair) and I thought he was an old pastor dude. I guess I know what  30 somethings think about me now. But I digressify. This is not about me  – it is about him. I have grown to love, trust, and respect him over the years and wanted to detail some of the reasons why.

He is before anything else a husband and a father – He has modeled over the years the importance of taking care of your family. I have watched him over the years with his wife, kids, dad, and mom. He has made countless trips over the years to SC to make sure that things were taken care of. He pastored his own family before he pastored the family God called him to shepherd.

He is a GREAT pastor – I will say publicly what I have come to believe: He is a very good preacher, but he is an incredibly great pastor. He genuinely loves and cares for people. A lot of pastors like to bury themselves in their office surrounded by books. He is much more at home ministering to people and demonstrating to them the love and compassion of Christ. I don’t think the people at Ridgecrest have ever doubted how much their pastor loved them.

He is a peacemaker – He strongly values unity in the body of Christ. He has made sure that Ridgecrest has been known for the health of its body life and not for any petty differences that might exist among its people. This is most visible in the way that we handle “business”. We do not, as a matter of fact, have business meetings. Too many churches have been torn apart by business meetings that got out of hand. We have church conferences – where we discuss our business in a God-honoring, Spirit-led way and then get on about God’s business not man’s. He has led our church to be a healthy lighthouse of hope in the Durham community.

He is a plodder – (Okay, I notice that I am working on a string of 3 “P”s here – not intentional but maybe subconsciously in his honor) – I mean this in the best possible way. He will admit, as he has on many occasions to me, that he takes his time about making big decisions. And while in my youthful exuberance I have been ready to plow ahead at 1000 mph, he has shown me the wisdom of taking things slow, making sure things are done right, and proceeding when the people were ready – not just when I was ready. This has been perhaps one of his greatest leadership lessons to me.

He is not in any way, shape, or form a micro-manager – To most people this will not mean much but to those of us who call him “boss” it means everything. He has never acted like a boss to those of us fortunate enough to be on his staff. We have been colleagues working alongside one another for the advance of the gospel and the shepherding of God’s church. He called us to partner with him in this great mission, gave us a job to do, and then let us do it. He let us make decisions. He gave us the freedom to fail. And we always knew that he had our back. I cannot think of a better environment for me to have been in as I have grown and matured as a pastor.

He values loyalty – Ridgecrest is very unique. There are very few churches who have multiple staff pastors who have served together as long as those at Ridgecrest. This is primarily because the Pastor is loyal to his staff and they in turn are loyal to him. Believe me when I say that more staff pastors than not are looking for a great pastor to work alongside. Note that I said alongside – not under. I have never felt like I was working under our pastor. And yet I have always submitted to his authority and leadership. That’s the kind of relationship that he breeds in his staff.

He is both faithful and full of faith – Let me differentiate. To be faithful is to be true to one’s word and a keeper of promises; to be trustworthy. To be full of faith is to trust God even when it is difficult to do so. It is not hard to do either of these for short periods of time. But for 40+ years of ministry Pastor Don has exemplified both of these qualities. Rare indeed!

He loves the Word of God – or should I say that he lives the Word of God. Either would be correct. He spent the first 20 years of his ministry believing in and trusting the Bible as God’s inerrant, infallible Word in a time when it was not politically correct to do so even among Southern Baptists. Our seminaries were by and large exporting liberal pastors into churches – and all the while he continued to preach the Bible as Truth. This is without a doubt why Ridgecrest continues to be a healthy, vibrant church while many other churches are wondering where all their people have gone.

So Pastor, on a personal note let me just say this on behalf of Linda and myself. Thank you for investing in our lives for the past 17 years. Thank you for not only being a pastor to our church but a pastor to our family. Thank you for letting me use my creativity and unique way of doing things. Thank you for letting me try out all those “Shay’s Stupid Games” on all those poor unsuspecting people. Thank you for demonstrating servant leadership in a way that made me feel valued and appreciated.

We love you,

Shay and Linda

Thats the Pastor on the drums. Then Al, Mark Harper, and me. (2004)

Ode to Al Huffman and the DCP

So for those of you reading this who are not RBCers let me bring you into the loop. For 21 years Ridgecrest has put on the Durham Christmas Pageant at Page Auditorium (at Duke) as a gift to the city of Durham. It is a 2+ hour Broadway style show that features great Christmas music, a poignant modern Christmas story, and a telling of the gospel through drama and music. It was created by Al Huffman (worship pastor at RBC), produced by Al Huffman, and directed by Al Huffman.

Today’s performance of the DCP was the last one. The DCP is being retired after 21 years. I’m sure for Al that it is a bittersweet ending. It has been a labor of love for all these years and has been used to reach our city with the gospel and to create community and a shared purpose in our church. But I know that it is an exhausting endeavor each year. It takes at least 4 months of constant work to pull it together and I have a suspicion that it is never far from Al’s mind the rest of the year.

So with the lights going out on the DCP I wanted to say thanks to Al:

Thanks Al for all the hard work you have put in over the years to make the DCP such a huge success.

Thanks Al for creating something that our entire church could rally around each year for ministry.

Thanks Al for demonstrating such passion through the years to see the DCP come together.

Thanks Al on behalf of Billy Wentz and scores of others who are now in the kingdom of God because of the DCP.

Thanks Al for all the funny stories that have come out of these productions that now have a life of their own.

Thanks Al for giving kids a chance to shine and have fun performing on stage.

Thanks Al for introducing us to some of the best Christmas music around.

Thanks Al for the Hobos, and the Santa Clauses, and the Babies, and all the other characters that will never be forgotten.

Thanks Al for showing us your love for the Lord through this labor of love.

Thanks Al… for all the memories!

Ode to a Great Friend

EVERYBODY should have a friend like Bobby Salmon. I consider it a privilege to be his friend. Today is Bobby’s 50th birthday. I wanted to use my blog time to try to express why he is such a great friend and why I appreciate him so much.

1. He loves God and is a follower of His Son Jesus – This is expressed in a lot of the ways that I will mention below, but the  bottom line is that he genuinely loves God. Everything that he does flows from this fact. His life is centered on knowing God and obeying His Word. He is not just a good church goer – He actually practices what he says that he believes. I love that about him.

2. He has a great family – I love his family.  Kim, Tyler, Jordan, and Morgan. But more than that – he loves his family. I have watched him over the last 12 or so years as he has poured his life into them. He has been an involved husband and dad. Not a passive, hope-my-family-turns-out-ok kind of dad. And he has made sure that if nothing else, they know that they are loved.

3. He is a servant-leader – In the truest meaning of the term. He is a servant par excellance. He loves to serve God, serve his church, serve others. He finds great joy in helping – especially in helping others. He will do anything for you if it is in his power to do so. But he is also a true leader. In fact, I know few people who are as good at leading others as he is. And he leads in such a way that you want to follow. The mark of a great leader.

4. He is a generous giver – I know this because he has been very generous to me and my family. Generosity is an indication of a man who understands grace. Bobby knows how much he has been given by God – how gracious God has been to him – and in turn is generous to others and to his church.

5. He loves Haiti – 10 years ago Bobby began going to Haiti and has gone just about every year since then when it was possible and sometimes more than once a year. He loves the country. He loves the people. He loves Pastor Leon Dorleans. He has invested time, money, sweat, and tears into making the country a better place to live. Here are a few pics of him from over the years:

6. He is hard worker and a bonafide success story – By the world’s standards, Bobby is a successful man. Every bit of his success has been earned , not handed to him. But he is a hard worker at whatever he does – whether he is in the gym working out, or building a house in Haiti, or serving in the church. Whatever he does, he does with all his might. He is a great example of working hard and not expecting life to be handed to you.

7. He is very civic minded – Not only does he give a lot of his time to his family and church but he also has invested himself in trying to make Durham a better place to live. He has served in a number of different volunteer capacities in civic organizations hoping to make a difference in this city that he has spent his whole life in.

8. He is great story teller – If you are around Bobby for any length of time at all you know that he tells a great story. And his whole body gets involved in the telling of the story. He has great facial expressions and voice inflection when he gets going and make you feel as if you were there when the story happened. A part of his being a great story teller is having a great sense of humor. He probably makes me laugh more than anybody that I know. And he’s especially funny when he’s telling a story on himself. Like the RAT story in Haiti. Like the Lindsay story in Fondwa.

9. He is passionate about life – This is probably evident from some of the other stuff that I have said. I love the passion that oozes out of him as he pursues life. Whether deer hunting or announcing Riverside football games or cooking a pig or leading a finance meeting or teaching Sunday School or rooting for the Blue Devils or any number of other things – he is able to articulate and demonstrate passion in all things.

10. He knows EVERYBODY! – I’ve gotta figure that my six degrees of separation are greatly enhanced because I know Bobby. If I need to know somebody, Bobby is a great contact to have because of all the people he knows. Not just knows about them, but knows them. And is considered a friend by most of them. Indeed, Bobby Salmon is a GREAT friend to have. But don’t just take my word for it, here are what some of his other friends say:

“He got us in DORAL!  He is a Haiti Warrior. He is the Enforcer. When he speaks not only does everybody listen they hop to. Finally, he is another David, he has a heart after God.” Rodney H.

“Bobby is a friend who can always be counted on to help you in whatever way he can.  He also cooks a very good pig.” Tony B.

“Bobby Salmon is one friend that guys in ministry cherish as a guy who is never wavering and always on time with words of encouragement.” Don C.

“Bobby is a gifted servant-leader who is willing to stand, speak, move forward, and take the heat.  He doesn’t need recognition or the spotlight.  And – he cooks good!!!” Marc F.

Happy birthday Big Bob! Thanks for being a great friend!

Ode to Disc Golf

It’s been about a year since I have been soundly converted from a regular golfer to a disc golfer. Here are some reasons why I love the sport of disc golf:

Cost is minimal – All you need is one disc to play and a disc only costs about $15. There is no green fee or charge to play a disc golf course. Now admittedly most serious DGers have a bag full of discs but still for under $100 you can get years of play in. Contrast this with golf golf where an average green fee is around $50 for one round.

Takes about an hour – When I played the other kind of golf it was at least a half day event. 4-5 hours for a round was minimal. I can play a round of DG in about an hour if I am playing with one other person – 40 minutes if I play by myself.

Good exercise – Everybody says that walking is good exercise. The course that I generally play on has some hilly terrain so I feel like I am exercising when I play. I had gotten to the point where I almost always rode a cart with golf golf – not much exercise in that.

Fun way for guys to hang out – Guys don’t do good just sitting down over coffee and talking. They need to talk while being distracted by other stuff so that they don’t feel like they HAVE to talk. This is the great thing about DG. Guys can play together and find out about each other’s lives without the pressure of trying to keep a conversation going.

Hole in one – I played golf golf for 40 years and not once did I ever have a hole in one. I have been playing DG for about a year and already I have one hole in one under my belt. Pretty thrilling I must say.

My sons enjoy it – All 3 of my sons enjoy the game and we have a good time playing together. We actually started an annual Reyner Christmas Championship – Scott is the reigning champion.

I can be competitive – When I first started playing I would shoot about +18 for a round. Now I expect to be par or better. My best score to date is -5. And I feel like I can beat anyone I play I with on any given day. It usually doesn’t work out that way but at least I feel like I have a shot. Not bad for an over 50 guy.

Close to home – My home course is only 7 minutes away from my house. I love the fact that I can be at the course so quick.

Play year round – I would never play golf golf if the temperature was under 45 degrees. I can play DG all year. Last year I was out playing when it was 22 degrees. Just throw on a couple layers of clothes and I’m good to go.

Gives me something to ask for for Christmas – I never know what to ask for for Christmas or my birthday. Now that I’m playing DG I can always ask for a new disc that I want to try out. It’s something I will enjoy and an inexpensive gift for someone to buy.

So there you have it. So if you are reading this and have a sudden hankering to try the game out then give me a call. I’d love to get in a game with you and show you why its such a great sport.

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