I first met Toby seven years ago. I was teaching high school in Vicksburg, Mississippi and was active in supply preaching for churches in our local Baptist association and across the river in the edge of Louisiana. One afternoon I received a phone call from a church south of town that needed someone to preach on an ongoing basis as an interim, and to be willing to do so indefinitely. Their pastor had been hit by a car and was currently in the hospital in Jackson on life support. I didn’t know anything about the church, and I didn’t know their pastor, but I began to drive down the twenty or so miles on Sundays and serve Shiloh Baptist Church through preaching.
Thankfully their pastor pulled through, and soon he was able to come home. That’s when I first encountered Toby’s intense passion for the people that God had given him to shepherd. He was incapacitated to say the least, but as soon as he was able to leave the hospital he had one thing on his mind. He had to make sure his church was being provided for, and since he didn’t know the young guy from Vicksburg that was preaching in his pulpit, he had to make sure he wasn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing, delivering arsenic laced sermons in the guise of sweet-tea spirituality.
So long before Toby should have been out and at Sunday morning worship services, there he was, and beginning from that first meeting he and I began to be bound together as brothers, friends, pastors, and fellow servants of our Lord in ways that we couldn’t begin to imagine. His friendship has been one of the most significant friendships of my life. He and his family ended up moving to Louisville not long afterwards, and as far as I was concerned he and I may never have much contact again. I was happy teaching and serving through an itinerant preaching ministry and in a teaching role at my home church in Vicksburg, and I had just started dating this pretty girl from Natchez. So as far as I knew our friendship may have run its course.
But I was wrong, wonderfully and gloriously wrong. It has been one of the great privileges of my life and young ministry to serve alongside him as a pastor. We’ve served together now for almost four years, and I am daily thankful for the gospel impact that he has had in my life. And today is his birthday, and not only that, but a few weeks ago he also marked his fifth anniversary as senior pastor of First Baptist Church Henryville. So I want to take this opportunity as one of the pastors here at FBC, as one of its leaders and shepherds, to both model gospel-gratitude and to call each of us to be thankful for this pastor that God has called to serve our body. Birthdays are days of gifts and presents, and while that usually means that we give gifts to the person who is celebrating the birthday, today I want to remind you that Toby has been, and continues to be, a gift that has been given to us.
The term pastor refers to a shepherd. A shepherd is placed over a flock to lead it, guide it, feed it, protect it, defend it, care for it, and to love it. A pastor of a local church then, is an under-shepherd (under Christ) who serves with the authority of Christ to fulfill these responsibilities. We have three pastors on staff at our church, and as the senior pastor Toby serves in the primary role of shepherding. He guards and guides the flock and oversees and serves alongside the other pastors charged with assisting in the pastoral work. That may all seem pretty standard. Many of us would agree that this is exactly what a senior pastor’s responsibilities are, and yet I want to remind all of us of the specific blessing that we have been given by having Toby as our senior pastor. As I see it, there are three specific aspects to pastoral ministry (all modeled by the apostle Paul) that characterize his ministry, three things that we dare not take for granted:
1. First, Toby is first and foremost a preacher of the Word. His commitment as a pastor above all commitments is to be a faithful, gospel-centered expositor of scripture. As many of us know, he has been strongly influenced by the example of Charles Spurgeon, and as such we might truly call Toby the Charles Spurgeon of Clark County! Spurgeon was committed throughout his life to being a preacher, understanding that this is the central and foundational task of all pastoral ministry.
Paul implored his younger associate to be faithful to “preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4:2), and Toby recognizes that this command must be the cornerstone of a pastor’s service. It is no small thing to have a faithful pastor who will faithfully and fearlessly stand before a people week in and week out and call us to read the Word, understand the Word, believe the Word, obey the Word, cherish the Word, and have lives that are transformed by being submissive to the Word! Left to ourselves we all want spiritual junk-food. In our sin, we enjoy man-centered pep-talks. It is the mark of a faithful pastor, then, to not just give us what we want, but to give us what we need, and what we need is the continual diet of the Bible’s truth. Toby takes Jesus’ words to “feed my sheep,” seriously, and he believes that Jesus meant exactly what he said.
2. Second, Toby sets an example and a standard of not being merely a pulpit expositor. What do I mean? I mean that even though Toby would passionately agree that the most important task he has each week is to preach to our flock each Lord’s Day, he is not content to only preach us the gospel on Sundays. He is a pastor. He ministers to us. He visits us. He cares for us. He disciples us. He presents an example of an evangelist to us. He is a faithful pastor behind the pulpit, in our homes, in our hospital rooms, and in our workplaces.
He cares. In times of rejoicing, in times of tragedy, in times of grief he is committed to being a faithful shepherd. Paul, in his farewell message to the Ephesian elders, reminded them about his ministry in their city and modeled this pattern of pastoral ministry. He reminded them that, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time…serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me…how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:18:-21). Toby seeks to follow Paul’s example.
3. Third, and finally, Toby not only preaches to us faithfully each week and cares for his flock throughout each week, but he is also committed to living among and with us in and through all of life. Toby understands that a pastor is not a professional, and he understands that a shepherd is called to care for a flock, and you can’t care for a flock without loving it. I know this much is true, just under his love for Jesus Christ and his family, the family of faith at FBC Henryville has his heart. There really isn’t any place he’d rather be than at Henryville, and there really isn’t any group of people he’d rather be with than us. That means he doesn’t have office hours as such. That means that when he takes a yearly vacation cruise, he really does genuinely want his friends from Henryville to come along with him!
Toby understands that to be a servant of the gospel means to hold nothing back from those he is called to serve through the gospel, to not sanction off a part of his life that is separate from those to whom he is a pastor. Paul knew this too. One thing that is certain through his letters is that Paul never delivered the gospel to his churches without also delivering himself. To Paul, his life and his message were inextricably bound together. If he was to give them one, he had to give them the other. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he and his fellow church-planters “cared for you, because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Paul isn’t saying that their lives are a greater gift than the gospel, but he is saying that giving the local church their lives is a demonstration of their deep love for the church in and through and for the gospel.
These three things characteristics are the bedrock pillars of Toby’s ministry to us and among us. They demonstrate not only how much he loves us, but even more clearly how much he loves his Savior, and how seriously he takes his charge as a pastor. That is a great gift, and we would do well to be thankful and to express that gratitude to God and to Toby. The Bible is clear about how we are to treat those whom God has given us to be our shepherds. We are told to “honor such men” (Philippians 2:29), and to “respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).”
Those last words are not suggestions that are only applicable on their birthdays or during Pastor Appreciation Month. They are to be believed and lived by the believer throughout our lives. I am a pastor, and I have a pastor. And I am thankful that the pastor God has placed over me is Toby Jenkins, and today on his birthday I am continuing to esteem him very highly in love.
– Pastor Cade