Dec 12, 2011

Llewellyn Jones: Advice for Young Pastors From a 54 Year Veteran Pastor

I recently had the chance to get back down to the perpetually sunny state of Florida and with my unending battle with SAD, I always need a little sun in the winter.  Just like a cute little tulip, I perk up nice when I get me some sunshine.

On a quiet afternoon I met up with Rev. Llewellyn ("Cal") Jones and his wife, Clara.  In the ministry now for 54 years, they are currently serving at a church on the Seminole Reservation, proving my theory that Christians are not called to retire. Christians are called to serve, love and minister until they die, I'm pretty sure.  And there the Jones' are, in a motor home, in Florida, in retirement years, but still going strong.

(Left to right:  Cal, Clara, daughter Laurie, friend Raina)

So of course I had to ask them some questions. I wanted to wallow in the wealth of wisdom 54 years of ministry produces. I wished I had several days to talk to them.

"What," I asked, "would you advise a young pastor and his wife who are just starting out in ministry?" .....
  Yeah, I got the deer in the headlight look - they wanted to think about this one, make it count, but I didn't let them.  I pushed, "Give me your first response."  Together they gave me these ideas:

  • Know it's the Lord's calling.
  • Know the priority of the family over the church - first is wife, then kids, then the church.  "A lot of preachers reverse that to their regret." Cal added.
  • Don't live in parsonages.  Get your own home so you have something when you need it.
  • Scripture Memorization.  "Preachers have to memorize scripture, have to be men of the Word.  If they're not, they are fakes, playing at the ministry."  Cal was pretty firm on this.
How has the church changed over your 54 years of ministry?

"There's two big hindrances right now," Cal began, "The first is music - it has taken over and the second is the KJV-only issue -- that has really hurt the churches.  Some churches won't have me because I don't preach the King James Version only.  That's all I use, but I don't preach against the others, I won't get in the fight."

Clara jumped in on this one and led into an interesting conversation that most KJV only folks have never been outside America and don't realize that there is no KJV in many countries and many languages.  As for the music, "It's too extreme!" Clara leaned forward and continued, "There's no moderation."  The music today is either too sad and slow or else too peppy and fast.  "You have to settle them down before you can preach."  Cal said.  Clara commented that the Seminole Indians here "sing the old hymns, but they sing with conviction and the way they ought to be sung."
She convinced me that I need to return on a Sunday and attend the church.
Road trip, anyone?

Then I leaned in for the killer question we all want to know:

What would you do different if you had it all to do again?

At first, their answer was basically No Regrets!  They would do nothing different other than purchase a house in the early years. Then it got interesting, they split into two directions – Clara, toward family and Cal, toward the church.

Clara talked about the importance of dealing with your children the way God deals with us – grace and mercy – with your children and your church people. She smiled at me and said, 
Your dad taught me this. He was talking one day about baking and how your mom could go in the kitchen and bake like a pro, she wouldn't have a bit of flour on her, but he would go out and be a total mess. What he told me,” Clara continued, “was that everybody has a right to fail. That impressed me so. Kids – and church members alike – have to have a right to fail, you can't just keep beating them down with the things they do wrong.” 
Cal thought awhile and had his firm answer. What would he do differently? He would not follow someone else's ideas unless the Lord really shows him it's His way. He now encourages pastors to seek God's way, not contests or programs. Churches often use contests or programs to reach people, such as Bring a Friend Sunday
 “They select a program and then say 'pray about it and the Lord will bless it.' But God will bless what He starts, what He leads me to do.”
Cal continued, “We need to learn to do things God's way, not the way someone else was successful doing. We want something that will work and someone else got it to work, so we try it.
  The Lord's an innovator
 We don't have to follow other people's ideas, it's a lot more exciting to see Him work!"

“It doesn't matter if it's a success or a failure if it's not God's way. Salvation is of the Lord, done by his Holy Spirit, not by smart preachers. You have to stop and ask the Lord what He wants, wait for Him to show you what to do. Young guys are big on starting contests, getting things done, but God will lead each of us individually.” And he finished with a quote, perhaps from Bill Gothard, “Work done God's way will always get God's results.”

This is the first in a short series on my visit with Cal and Clara. 

Join me later this week for more on their life and ministry including the exciting news about a CD coming out in January!  (Who remembers their first album back in the '70's?!)  Sing with me now: I'm no kin to the monkey, the monkey's no kin to me, I don't know much about your ancestors, but mine didn't swing from a tree......


Christy said...

Love the article, what insight!

Midge said...

Oh how I miss them! Loved him as my Pastor and love them as my friends. Can't wait to hear more!

Connie said...

‎"Preachers have to memorize scripture, have to be men of the Word. If they're not, they are fakes, playing at the ministry." I love this! ... imagine hearing from the mouth of a 'preacher' that scripture memorization is a joke ... yeah, it was said ...

Midge said...

If only you people could have heard him preach!!!! Miss 'em so much.

Clara said...

Cal said you CAN Midge. Come on down. Miss you too and all the great times we enjoyed together.

He said he'd even put some music on the piano for you at the last minute. How about that?

Scott said...

I put my faith in Christ as a result of Pastor Jones preaching and was greatly influenced by the love of their family towards me, especially Clara's kindness and Laney's friendship and Lois Sunday school teaching! I am eternally grateful.