“What a normal guy, I thought throughout the service. He was a World War II veteran, a dad, a husband. He was simply faithful—to God and to his church—and the Lord ministered to others through him. What if we—as ordinary Christ-followers—followed in his footsteps? What if we, who are normal and unexceptional, simply pursued faithfulness?”
I went to a funeral today. It was for the man who taught me the Lord’s prayer.
Mr. Taylor graduated to heaven at the age of ninety-six. He spent more than thirty-five years—over one-third of his life—teaching Sunday School.
When I was nine years old, my mom started taking us to church. She would drop me off in the church basement for class with the other children. They all came from intact Dutch families. Mine was neither intact nor Dutch.
A sticker chart hung on the wall, just inside the classroom door. Mr. Taylor would greet me there with a hug every Sunday, turn to the sticker chart and say, “Well, Jennie, are you ready to tell me what you’ve learned?” And I would rehearse my progress in the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:9-13.
He listened with pride twinkling in his eyes. Each sticker earned was progress towards a Sunday School prize. After our Bible recitation, he taught us a Bible story. Mr. Taylor was the first to introduce me to Abraham, Joseph, Moses, the disciples, and Paul.
Every year, on my birthday, Mr. Taylor would call me. Upon answering, he did not say hello but dove right in, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Jennie, happy birthday to you!” Then, “Have a great day today. Goodbye!” He called all the kids—and many adults—in our church every year. He was the kind of person that made sure to call you on your birthday.
And that’s all I really knew of Mr. Taylor until his funeral.
Long Obedience over Coffee and Bagels
In the memorial service, I learned that Mr. Taylor didn’t become a Christian until his 40s or 50s. As a believer, he had coffee and a bagel with our pastor every week. And every week, they’d talk about the Bible. Mr. Taylor loved the Bible. He read it, memorized it, cherished it.
Not only did Mr. Taylor have a deep faith, but he was faithful. The pastor reminisced how he never missed a Sunday. Though his wife never accompanied him to church, he was always, always there. Though he was in poor health—even when I first met him thirty years ago—he never missed a week. Though his hearing failed, he had to walk with a cane, and his strength was clearly waning—he was faithful in his obedience to God.
I agree with the eulogy—Mr. Taylor heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matt. 25:23) when he met Jesus. He is a striking example of a long obedience in the same direction. He never grew weary of doing good (Gal. 6:9).
What a normal guy, I thought throughout the service. He was a World War II veteran, a dad, a husband. He was simply faithful—to God and to his church—and the Lord ministered to others through him.
What if we—as ordinary Christ-followers—followed in his footsteps? What if we, who are normal and unexceptional, simply pursued faithfulness? Here are some ways we might apply the fruit of Mr. Taylor’s life to our own.
Your theology doesn’t need to be fully developed to serve the church
The pastor performing the memorial service chuckled that Mr. Taylor would often get fixated on a doctrinal issue and have a hard time conforming his ideas to the truth. Though he was late to the faith, he gave himself over to the body of Christ. Despite being a work in progress, he readily invested in kids. The pastor and elders allowed Mr. Taylor to serve the church in a capacity that he could steward well. He had a passion for teaching children and the church supplied the tools and curriculum for him to do that. Neither the church leadership nor Mr. Taylor insisted on him having everything figured out before he served the body. Theology matters, but it need not be perfected before you can serve.