What happened this week.
Yesterday, Thursday, I drove 200 miles to New Orleans and to Covington, LA to do the funeral service of a dear lady who was a former member of the Kenner, LA church I pastored 1990-2004. She and her family remained our friends through the years, particularly as she battled cancer and left an amazing witness for Christ through it all.
The large church was packed yesterday–observing the distance protocols and masks, but still hundreds present–as friends far and near came to honor this beloved lady. Shannon Marvin Maisano was only 48.
What I wanted to tell you is this: In the service three other people spoke, all from that church: her best friend Dana, the Sunday School teacher for Shannon and her husband Billy, and the former associate pastor. What makes that special to me is this…
When Billy and Shannon moved (with their four children) from the New Orleans area across Lake Pontchartrain to the Covington-Mandeville, LA area, I picked up the phone and called the First Baptist Church of Covington. I wanted them to know that the Maisanos were moving into their area. “They need a wonderful church. You need them.”
Give them credit. That church sought out Billy and Shannon and the result was a wonderful love affair. If ever a family and a church bonded, they did.
Looking back over that pastorate, I must have had a hundred members or more move from our church field across the lake into the Covington area. And while I hated to lose them–there was a lot of that kind of flight going on in those days–not once did I make a phone call to any of the churches to say a particular family is moving into your field. Just this once.
There were reasons and I’ll not go into them here. What I wanted to say was “FBC Covington did well. They did it right.”
I wish all churches would be so faithful.
Perhaps twenty or more years ago, my wife and I were visiting with our daughter and her little family in New Hampshire. Due to a bad marriage that did not survive, this family was struggling desperately. But the three little children, our granddaughters, were precious beyond words. And being a pastor, I realized that a good church fellowship could make a great difference in those children. That’s why one day I walked the girls down the street to the nearest Baptist church.
The pastor was out that day, but we met the children’s minister who was cordial. I introduced my granddaughters and gave their address. We got the names and email addresses for the pastor and youth minister. When we returned home in New Orleans, I sent messages to those ministers.
And never heard a word. Not the first.
No one from the church ever visited this little family, even though they lived two blocks from the church.
Why? There’s no way to know for certain, of course, but I would hazard a guess.
This little family could not bring offerings to the church. They would need ministry and perhaps a lot of it. They were not impressive, did not know how to behave in church, and probably would not be regular in attendance.
Reaching them would have impressed only one Person: The Lord.
And apparently that was not enough for them.
The next time we made the journey northward, I took the children to call on another church of a related denomination (although different). The pastor was super nice and the church did make some attempts to minister to the family. But once they saw the family would be slow to respond and the father was sometimes hostile, they dropped them. “We can’t go where we’re not wanted,” said the pastor. I understood and did not argue, but what I thought was, “The children wanted you. Does that not matter?”
The family divorced, the father has been in prison most of the years since, and the children have struggled to find their way. It could have been so much better with a family of Christ-followers assisting them.
When I was pastoring, from time to time a call would come from a distant church telling of some needy person or family from their congregation who had just moved to our area. Would we reach out to them? And we did. Did we always get it right? I’m sure we didn’t. But sometimes we did.
God bless the churches that get this right. God bless the pastors and the members who care about reaching the needy, the unfortunate, the overlooked, the underserved. These are dear to the heart of our Lord.
Only those who want to please Him will be faithful.