ARNOLDSVILLE, Ga. (BP)–For pastor Richard McFall, it began as any other Sunday but didn’t end that way.
That’s because McFall, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Arnoldsville, Ga., located just southeast of Athens, was recognized as the winner of the Legacy Contest sponsored by LifeWaystores.com in a surprise ceremony during the morning worship service Oct. 21.
As part of Pastor Appreciation Month, the contest was designed to honor pastors and recognize their legacies to the congregation.
“We wanted to celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month by honoring pastors and encouraging our customers to do the same,” said Trish Shumpert, marketing coordinator of LifeWay Christian Stores’ Internet-based retail department. “We were inspired by the work of Ron DiCianni and his artwork titled, ‘The Legacy,’ and decided to hold an essay contest that would provide an opportunity for our customers to tell us about the legacy their pastor has given.”
Church members from across the country submitted short essays detailing that legacy. A panel of judges then reviewed and judged the entries based on originality, creativity and compatibility with Christian beliefs, Shumpert said.
But on Oct. 21, McFall was unaware of all of this. He didn’t know that a member of his church had written an essay about his legacy, much less that it was his own daughter, Amy.
On that morning, everything was going as he had expected. Then, as he completed a few last-minute preparations in his office, he noticed four strangers walking toward the church entrance. Corinth has an average Sunday morning attendance of 75 people, so McFall knows most of his church members by name. Three cars of visitors don’t usually drive up to Corinth at the same time. He was curious.
At first, he said he wondered if the visitors might be a pulpit committee or a singing group, perhaps to help celebrate his eighth anniversary as senior pastor at Corinth. McFall only became more confused when the chairman of the deacons asked to speak during the announcements and called one of the strangers forward.
That stranger was Trish Shumpert.
“We wanted to celebrate Pastor’s Appreciation Month (October) by honoring pastors and encouraging our customers to do the same,” Shumpert told the congregation as she explained the Legacy Contest. “This contest seems to have heightened many people’s awareness of all the work and personal sacrifice by their pastors.”
After recognizing McFall as the winning pastor and reading the essay aloud, Shumpert informed him that his daughter had written the letter. McFall later said he was humbled by the words of praise and wondered if he truly deserved the honor.
To the contest question, “In 100 words or less, describe the legacy your pastor has given your congregation,” Amy McFall wrote:
“My pastor never intended to become a pastor. He did not study to become a great orator or a powerful writer. When my pastor responded to God’s call, it was with full understanding that he was not equipped for this job. Yet when my pastor steps into the pulpit, the words of God flow with a message of vital importance. God is able to equip His willing servant. My pastor is able to reach all ages; he rolls and plays with the children and he can party with the Senior Adults. His Legacy: God equips those He has called.”
Shumpert presented McFall with a framed copy of his daughter’s essay to commemorate the occasion. LifeWay also presented McFall with a limited-edition print of “The Legacy,” the Ron DiCianni print that had inspired the contest, and gave the church another DiCianni print titled, “The Servant.” DiCianni also attended the ceremony and spoke to the congregation about the message of his prints.
For McFall, that special Sunday will not soon be forgotten.
“In my 30 years of church leadership, God has always been faithful in leading me to the place he wanted me to serve … and then supplying me with everything I needed to carry out that ministry,” he said. “I think of the Scripture, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21). God calls us to stay the course of faith and finish well before our earthly journey is done. We must continue to let God work through us, just as LifeWay’s vision statement declares.
“God will be faithful to refresh us daily for his service. My life is evidence of that. He renews us through his Word, through quiet times with him in meditation and prayer, through other people and, yes, even through events like the one LifeWay and others blessed me with on Sunday, Oct. 21 … a day I will always treasure.”