God has uniquely gifted the local church to help the people of God reach the nations for God. Though you can mine the depths of the minds of great authors in their books, your local church is a gold mine. Though online pastors drop gems in their sermons week after week, your local church is a gold mine. Though your favorite podcast can prove to be a treasure trove of biblical knowledge, your local church is a gold mine.
Keith Hamilton is a 69-year-old member of our local church. After church on Sunday, we made plans to meet up in the next few days to discuss life and Scripture. A couple of nights earlier he sent a text asking, “What are some big topics or needs you’d like to discuss on Wednesday morning?” I took about a day to think about it and responded, “Fatherhood and unity are always good topics.” We settled on fatherhood and made arrangements to meet at The Hub, a favorite local coffee shop, at 7 a.m.
On that Wednesday morning we were greeted by the familiar smoky smell of freshly roasted coffee. We ordered our java, grabbed a hearty breakfast, and sat at a table next to the window. The air conditioning was chilly and the ambient music particularly upbeat. I grabbed my pocket-sized leather notebook, my favorite Pilot G-2 .05 ink pen, and my Bible to learn from this missionary and father of three. We opened with a word of prayer before digging into our breakfast.
After some brief small talk, Keith opened up his iPad, propped it up on a neat little tablet stand, and shifted the screen so I could see it. He had prepared a page of Scripture notes for us to discuss. The notes were focused around two simple and familiar passages. Though I knew them by heart, I wasn’t prepared for how impactful these verses would be that morning. Keith said, “The first two passages that came to mind for the topic of fatherhood were Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21. Here are some of the word study notes I came up with. Sorry I didn’t quite have time to get to the application points yet.”
At that moment, I was astonished that Mr. Hamilton, a man who also teaches Bible classes online, took time out of his busy schedule, full of responsibilities, to prepare a Bible study to help me grow as a father. He didn’t opt for his own opinions. He also didn’t choose a good book from his shelf. Instead, he humbly opened God’s Word to help me. Keith modeled the discipleship I have so earnestly desired.
A Lesson in Failure and Success
In contrast to the brisk air in the room, my time with Keith was warm. Though I’d read and preached those fatherhood passages numerous times, they were a fresh and welcome word from this seasoned saint. He weaved his own stories of successes, failures, and lessons learned from his own experience of fatherhood on the mission field, the times when ministry and work separated him from his family. He didn’t mince words either. I listened as Keith said, “In that season, I failed.” He didn’t dress his failures with excuses about his calling or the necessary sacrifices he needed to make for the cause of the gospel. He was honest. Painfully honest. I needed to hear that.
He shared specific memories from the early 90s when his kids, like me, were just toddlers running around.