What About Bob?

What About Bob?
By Rev. Tony Cooke

I recently ministered for Pastor Jerry Piker in Laurie, Missouri. Over the past 20 years, Jerry and Shirlene have built a great church in a small community (the sign as you drive into town says, “Population 663”). Jerry has a servant’s heart, and like many pastors, he’s done whatever it’s taken over the years to get the job done (mowing the yard, maintenance, etc. in addition to preaching and caring for the people).

As we fellowshipped, he mentioned a man in his church named Bob who had been a great blessing to him and his wife in many ways. This man was from a rough background and had gotten saved at the church. As Bob grew in the Lord, he told Pastor Jerry, “I don’t know anything about this ministry of helps, but I feel called to it.”

Pastor Jerry related: “Bob began by doing simple things for us like not going through doors ahead of us but opening doors and holding them for us. Then one day, he came to me and said, ‘You shouldn’t be mowing the grass, I will do that so you won’t have to.’ After about a year of continuing to grow in the Word of God, Bob came to me and said, ‘Pastor, I believe we are called to take care of you and your wife.’ I thought the words ‘take care of’ were a little strange to be saying because I didn’t really know Bob that well.

Over the next few years I grew to love and appreciate Bob all the more. I found out what being taken care of meant. You see, Bob, established things for us that no person had even thought about or asked about. He asked if he could present an opportunity for the church members to invest in our retirement fund and he established that for us. Every Christmas whether he had money or not, we would both be presented with a nice present. He also sent us to Hawaii once and took us another time. The ministry of helps became a new ministry for our church because Bob took it upon himself to see that I was not doing the ‘waiting on tables,’ I could now concentrate on the Word of God and prayer. Bob was my answer from Heaven. From that time since, I have never had anyone in our church like Bob. He went home to be with the Lord a few years ago, but left word to his wife to continue to take care of Pastor.”

Having seen many pastors struggle without sufficient help, my heart was warmed as I heard Pastor Jerry share about someone who had been such a God-send to him and his wife. I realize that some leaders take this kind of thing to an extreme and develop wrong attitudes about such matters. They seem to believe that everyone exists merely to cater to them and serve them… that others exist merely for their own personal benefit. In so doing, they lose sight of the fact that as leaders, we are never to cease being servants ourselves. However, I think these types of leaders are greatly in the minority. The vast majority of pastors I’ve had the privilege of associating with genuinely embody the traits described in such scriptures as Matthew 20:28, 2 Corinthians 12:15, and 1 Thessalonians 2:6-7.

Who Ministered to Jesus and Paul?

Jesus and Paul were certainly servants who ministered to others, but who ministered to them? They gave magnificently of themselves to others, but they also benefited greatly from individuals who had a special calling to support and assist them. There were special people (like Bob) that God placed “in their corner” to encourage them and under-gird them.

We know that Jesus’ disciples helped in some practical areas of Jesus’ ministry, but we sometimes forget the other individuals who worked behind the scenes in support of Jesus and his ministry. Luke 8:1-3 says, “Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities — Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.”

The New Living Translation says there were, “…many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.” Later, at the cross (Mark 15:40-1), reference is made to these same women, “…who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee.”

The Apostle Paul spoke repeatedly of people that God had sent into his life at key times, and he spoke with overflowing gratitude of the help and encouragement that they had been to him. One time, Paul referred to how he had been, “…comforted by the coming of Titus” (2 Cor. 7:6), and he also referred to a group of brothers who had proven, “…to be a comfort to me” (Col. 4:11).

In the first verse, comforted means to call to one’s side. Comfort in the latter verse is a medical term that refers to medicines that relieve irritations. It has connotations of soothing, solace, relief, alleviation, consolation, and encouragement. Pastors, and everyone else for that matter, are truly blessed if they are surrounded with others who have that type of effect in their lives.

Paul wasn’t merely thankful for people who had helped him in his ministry (that could appear to have been self-serving even if it wasn’t Paul’s motive), but he promoted the helping of others who were preaching the gospel as well. In Romans 16:1-2, he said, “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.”

In essence, Paul was saying, “Be a Bob to Phoebe, because she’s been a Bob to me and to many.” This is really what partnership and teamwork in life and ministry are all about. We all need help and we all have a need to help others. I love what Charles Brower said: “Few people are successful unless a lot of other people want them to be.”

History has some great examples of such helping and partnership. For example, Martin Luther wasn’t the first reformer, but his is the name we most remember. Some of the early reformers didn’t live long because of persecution, but Luther had the care, protection, and provision that came to him through Fredrick of Saxony in the Wartburg Castle. We might say that Martin Luther had his own “Bob,” someone who felt that the Lord had given him the assignment of serving the great reformer and helping him fulfill his mission.

There is a powerful verse in Isaiah 41:6-7 that describes the power of teamwork: “Everyone helped his neighbor, and said to his brother, ‘Be of good courage!’ So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; He who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, ‘It is ready for the soldering’; then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter.” This description of teamwork and encouragement is actually about those making an idol. How much more should God’s people cheer each other on and encourage each other as they build the Kingdom of God and advance the gospel!