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