On Wednesday, I had lunch with the preaching minister from an area church. What made this particular lunch special is that I once had lunch with this young man’s father … back in 1991!
When Tonya and I first moved to San Diego, we were fresh out of college, young, and still learning the ropes. I had graduated from a Christian college with a very conservative reputation — good in some social circles, not so good in others. Personally, I had never fully adopted all of the party line. OK, I didn’t adopt much at all.
Barry Packer was the preaching minister at the La Mesa Church of Christ and called to invite me out to lunch. I was the “new guy” in town and he was the first colleague to reach out to me. I can still remember riding in his SUV and having him ask me where I went to college. When I told him, there was an uncomfortable moment of silence.
“Don’t worry, I broke out of there long ago” was my attempt to return oxygen to the conversation. It worked.
Over the next five years, Barry became an informal mentor of mine (I’m not sure if he knew it or if he would accept responsibility!). As a new pastor, I made a lot of mistakes and encountered numerous frustrations. Having an older, wiser friend in my life was invaluable to me. Looking back, it’s safe to say that I remained a minister in large part because of his friendship.
Sitting across the table last Wednesday from his son, Collin, I was struck by the fact that we’re about the same age difference as his dad and I are. I’m no longer that young twenty-something minister. I’m 40. I’m getting older. And it’s gratifying to see the next generation of thoughtful, passionate leaders on the horizon.