July 21, 2019
by Kevin Richardson
Pastor of Fort Gibson UMC / St Paul UMC
As I read this passage I am reminded of three men that had a profound effect on my formation, both physically and spiritually, my grandfather, Dr. Connie Bowles (my spiritual father), and Dr. Robert Clinton, Dean of Fuller Seminaries Leadership Department and a guest professor at South Western Christian University where I was blessed to go to graduate school.
My grandfather was a coalminer his whole life except for a short stint during World War II when he volunteered to become a paratrooper even though he had 4 children. He quit school at twelve years of age and went to work in the coal mines to support his siblings. He was uneducated, but very, very wise man, much more than I. Two of the sayings that have stuck in my mind from my childhood are, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason, listen twice as much as you talk and you’ll learn something” and “Don’t let people that talk about doing something all the time stand in the way of you doing it.” My grandfather taught me to work and to work hard and not stop until it was done. In other words, be a Martha.
Dr. Connie Bowles was my instructor at Maranatha Bible College in Dublin, VA. He held five doctorate degrees in different disciplines and was my spiritual father. He was the hardest working pastor I ever met. He out-visited, out-preached, out-taught, and out-administrated every pastor I knew in the Appalachian Conference of the IPHC; he was just phenomenal. I had the honor of helping preach his funeral and doing his committal in a small cemetery on Bradshaw Mountain in West Virginia. He was a great man; he was my Billy Graham. When we would get together for our Paul/Timothy meetings he would ask first, “How is your prayer and devotional time,” then, “What are you reading and how is God speaking to you through it.” He would then ask, “How is your attendance, how many visits have you made, and how many men have come to Christ at the prison under your ministry this month?” (I was a prison chaplain during this time.) He taught me I must sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary, but at the same time work as hard as Martha… I never understood how that was possible until I had Dr. Robert Clinton in graduate school.
Dr. Robert Clinton was a guest lecturer where I went to graduate school. In 2006 he was kind of a super star in the circles I ran in, so when he taught, his classes filled up fast. All our required books for the class he had written, and honestly as a young pastor I was rather star struck in his presence, so much so that I asked him to sign my Bible after my final class. In hindsight this was kind of a weird move on my part, but God used it. When he signed it, he wrote, “Minister out of being” above his signature. I had an 18-hour drive back to West Virginia from Oklahoma to ponder this statement… what does this mean? Minister out of being what? Then it hit me . . . minister out of being with Christ! The Mary and Martha account made perfect sense to me now. Jesus was not saying don’t work, or that work isn’t important, He was saying, “Start with Me, Let Me guide the work, Let Me strengthen you for the work, partner with Me in what I’m doing, don’t expect Me to just bless whatever you are doing.”
Father, I ask you to give us the strength to work like Martha, but at the same time to start each day, each new adventure, each new appointment, each new job or relationship by sitting at your Son’s feet with both our ears open and our mouth shut awaiting your direction. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.