Even churches, it seems, have their fifteen minutes in the social media world of fame. Through the years, that usually comes from outstanding accomplishments by our members who do something that ends up on the bulletin board. In my present congregation, having been here nearly 26 years, you eventually get a little reflection of the wonderful things your members undertake, and they are many. We have graduated people who became ministers, doctors, attorneys, and we claim eminent Baptist historian and advocate for the poor Dr. Wayne Flynt as a former member who was here in his Samford days. We currently have the Alabama Crimson Tide stadium announcer, Tony Giles, as a member, and in Alabama that accords near divine status for half of the church. One of our oldest members, Bobbye Weaver, was a renowned jazz drummer who played with Lawrence Welk and a host of other eminent people. One of our late members once danced with Betty Grable and worked on the Apollo space program. I could go on. But every church has its luminaries.
What does this “reflected glory” mean for the pastor? Not much. For if we take too much credit for the rich and famous, we also must own the other side of our membership. Let’s not go there. Give credit where it is due—their families, but more importantly, God, who is the giver of all good gifts.
So, our church is currently agog over Walker Burroughs, who is in the final eight of American Idol. Walker has been a member of our church most of his young twenty years, was with his sister Milligan a pillar of our youth group before launching off to Belmont University in Nashville to undertake a Music Education degree when American Idol came calling. We all knew how talented Walker was long ago. He comes from a musical family who are also ministers. He was the drum major of our high school band, played everything from ukulele and guitar to piano and the bassoon. He described himself on the show this way:
I feel like I was a weird kid. I don’t really know how to talk about sports or cars. I knit. I’m knitting a tie right now. But music was something that allowed me to be comfortable with myself.
Since we first knew him as a three-year-old twin, we never thought of him as weird. Just as smart, talented, and funny. And deeply faithful to God. Now, of course, his accomplishment is shining, and everyone who “knew him when” can bask a little in that. “Belmont Student makes final 8 on American Idol.” “Former Vestavia Hills High School student…” and on and on.
I can only say that week after week, when the doors were open and he could be here, Walker and Milligan were here, cheering others’ on. Milligan preached the Student Ministry Sunday sermon her senior year. We have always known these children had wonderful gifts. We didn’t make them. We just loved them, thanked God for them, prayed for them, and tried to nurture them in their faith.
Now about the “idol” part, I admit it’s a little awkward. I told the church recently on Wednesday night that it was alright to wear “WALKER BURROUGHS FOR AMERICAN IDOL” buttons to church. Our church began on property that once held a replica of the temple to the goddess Vesta, goddess of hearth and home, so we’ve been in the Christianization process before.
I also know this: Walker lives his faith wherever he goes. I know he ministers to others in a natural way. I know that finding his calling is what matters most. And I know that, when this is over, and wherever it leads, he will still have the same wonderful character we all know him to have. We’re voting for an idol, just this once. Because in this case, he’s all in for Jesus.
As for the reflected glory, well, whatever. It doesn’t make us a special church, any more than special high schools, special colleges or what have you. It only means that down within the lives of people in our congregations are all sorts of wondrous gifts, given by a generous God, for us to enjoy and appreciate as best we can. And in this case, vote! I’ll resist humblebragging, other than writing this blog. Did I tell you I’ve known the twins since they were almost four? Oh, yes….