When my childhood pastor Paul W. Powell went to heaven last month, he left a few things behind for his family, friends, and preacher-boys. I am one of those boys, and have learned many things from Paul in the last 45 years. These are the five lessons I shared at his graveside service.
Laugh often, especially at yourself.
Laughter is often a welcome break to the intensity of preaching, especially at weddings and funerals. Dr. Powell was good at witty quotes and jokes. I have a more dry, sardonic sense of humor—which often backfires on me!
Regardless of your style, don’t forget to smile. People have had a hard enough week between Sundays.
Sermons can be simple without being shallow.
One of the reasons Paul’s preaching style was compelling was that he preached like a Texan, not a scary revivalist or a cheesy televangelist. Texans shoot straight and probably have more swagger than we should.
Paul was more concerned with being clear than being clever. He wanted them to bring their Bible to church, not their dictionary. I learned that a preacher doesn’t have to be murky to be deep.
Friendships should triumph over disagreements.
Paul’s leadership path led him into some battle zones. Friendships were tested, including our own. As a younger pastor, I became disinterested in denominational politics, which somewhat confused Paul. We both eventually realized that God had been preparing me to pastor pastors across denominational lines later in my ministry, which is what I am doing now.
Despite our different roads and periodic disagreements, Paul never left me wondering if he loved me or was proud of me.
Pastors need grace at church and at home.
Pastoring is the only profession that requires people to win both at home and work. Pastors need grace for both assignments—as do their families. Paul’s daughter Lori and I literally grew up together since we were six years old. Our parents and brothers are very close friends, so our families have walked through almost all of life’s seasons and challenges together.
Green Acres has always been a grace-zone for pastors and members alike. The glass house the Powells lived in helped me later as a pastor to save some of the grace I preached about for myself, my family and my ministry.
Paul’s legacy was in what he helped others do.
Some are remembered for what they accomplished in life. Dr. Powell’s legacy is more about what he helped others to accomplish. He was an unselfish pastor to many members and pastors like me. Paul helped pastors prepare for retirement as CEO of Guidestone Resources, then helped future pastors prepare for ministry as the dean of Baylor’s Truett Seminary.
His legacy is alive and well and lives on through me and many more of his preacher boys around the world.
Paul Powell’s last book
Paul published over fifty books, three of which were collections of his funeral sermons. Since those were out of print, he suggested we write one together with twelve of his and three of mine. It was finished two weeks after his funeral. Shepherding in the Shadow of Death: 15 Funeral Sermons For Busy Pastors is available at LifeWay.com or through your local LifeWay store. We donated our royalties to allow me to give away as many as possible to young pastors and seminarians.
Paul’s favorite funeral sermons are in this book, but his life was the best funeral sermon he ever preached.
As a special gift to readers of LifeWayPastors.com, Mark has made available for giveaway ten copies of he and Paul Powell’s book, Shepherding in the Shadow of Death. One will go to each of the first ten commenters in the comment thread of this post. Please comment using a functioning email address.