God’s hand has been on Bob Russell for well over fifty years. It’s nothing short of astonishing. John and I’ve been two of thousands upon thousands of blessed recipients of his ministry.
Twenty-seven years ago, two of John’s siblings began talking non-stop about Bob and his church, Southeast Christian, where he was the Senior Pastor. We remained skeptical. The following Sunday, however, we decided to visit purely out of curiosity.
With our firstborn two-year old in tow, we were told the first floor was full. Climbing the steps, we discovered every seat was also taken in the balcony. People motioned to us to sit on the steps. Clearly this was commonplace.
The Lord was doing amazing things, drawing crowds like we’d never witnessed. Wanting to do further research, John and I stood in line one Sunday to meet Bob. Zeroing in on us, Bob asked questions, fully listening in spite of the line of people piling up behind us.
I said, “We’d love to have you and Judy over for dinner one night, if that would suit?” He quickly answered, “Sure. Give Judy a call. We’re in the phone book.” I was stunned, thinking surely they had an unlisted number. The next morning I called Judy and we set a dinner date. (Some of you are wondering, “What is a phone book?”)
Fast forward several Sunday services and a fun meal between the four of us later, John and I walked forward to join Southeast. Judy told me afterwards she about fell out of her chair when she saw us join as she’d thought we were already members. I’m beyond blessed to report we call Bob and Judy dear friends and mentors.
Last summer, I interviewed Bob about his book, The Acts of God: Why Does God Allow So Much Pain? Several of us enjoyed it as a Bible study along with the impactful teaching DVD’s. It is excellent if you’re on the hunt for a new fall study.
Now, let’s dive in to his newest book, After 50 Years of Ministry, 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same. Bob told me this book is his favorite because of the ripple effect it’s already had.
After forty years of pastoring Southeast, Bob retired. Here’s what his retirement looks like: For the past ten years, Bob’s been preaching all over the country and leading several mentoring retreats for pastors each year. He also writes an inspirational weekly blog plus he squeezes in a game of golf when he can (www.bobrussell.org). Sitting in a rocking chair is still not in his future!
While ministers of all ages can greatly benefit from Bob’s book, many of my friends are reading it even though we’re not officially in the ministry. (You’ll see later where I make the case we are all in ministry of some sort.) One of our preacher friends told us he’s already watching less TV per one of Bob’s suggestions!
I started by reading all the chapter titles. When I saw Bob wrote about Judy in Chapter Four, I flipped ahead to read it first. (Kinda cheating, but not really?)
Very vulnerable, Bob confesses he wishes he’d have been “kinder, more attentive, and more animated” with Judy. He gives us readers a peek into their lives revealing valuable lessons.
Bob and Judy recently celebrated their fifty-first wedding anniversary. Their two sons and their wives and seven grandchildren are a testimony to their faithfulness not only in their marriage, but to the Lord. Their oldest grandson, Charlie, recently got married and was ordained into the ministry. He and Faith are ministering at a church just outside of Chicago.
My favorite part of the chapter is near the end where Bob shares twelve, count-’em-twelve, reasons he loves Judy. He entitled it, “Fifty Years of Marriage—Enjoyment, Not Just Endurance.” (I told Judy that chapter alone is brownie points for life on Bob’s part. Way to go, Bob.)
Another favorite aspect of this book is how each chapter stands on its’ own. I found myself ping-ponging between the 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same. Fascinating discoveries.
Often I’d read snippets to John. One time we’d say, “Oh wow, I had no idea.” Another time we’d howl out loud. I love how Bob stresses the importance of humor. Bob says, “I think laughing out loud is one of the healthiest things a person can do.”
Chapter Nine’s title, “I would make the necessary adjustments to cope with the taxing pressures of ministry”, has all of our names on it. After all, we’re all ministers to others, aren’t we?
Remember the saying, “You may be the only Bible someone will ever read.” True we’re not all senior pastors of a mega church, but our spheres of influence are far reaching.
Bob offers eight suggestions, many of which we can take to heart. One suggestion Bob recommends is to start each day with prayer. He prays out loud to keep himself focused.
He says, “I take time to thank God for yesterday’s experiences and answered prayers and then lay before Him the needs of that day. I pray for my family and a list of missionaries and people in need.”
“Afterward I read one chapter from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, underlining passages that are meaningful to me. Most of the time I conclude by reading a section of a Christian book. ”
Bob steps on all our toes, rightly so, by comparing our lives to our cell phones. We charge our phones every night, and yet we fail to recharge ourselves. Hello?
He reminds us of Jesus praying, “Give me this day my daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) I love what The New Living Translation says, “Give us today the food we need.”
He tells of his Mother repeatedly talking about the importance of “staying prayed up.” God rest her sweet soul. I was blessed to meet Catherine Russell on occasion and can only imagine how proud of Bob she was. Bob adds, “A daily quiet time contributes to staying prayed up and lays the groundwork for ‘praying without ceasing.’”
Bob closes the book with two challenges. One is, “Be faithful.” He says, “Woody Allen was certainly no theologian, but he was right when he suggested that eighty percent of success is just showing up. ..
Sometimes the way we tell the Lord we love Him is to:
Get out of to bed,
Put our feet on the floor, and
Go about our daily assignments even though we don’t feel like it.
That’s called faithfulness.”
Two examples of this popped in my head from a couple of books I’ve been reading. One comes from Lysa TerKeurst. She talks about her daughter’s struggle with a certain sport. She said she finally had to keep telling her, “Just show up for practice. Just show up for practice.” (www.lysaterkeurst.com )
May we press on for God’s glory and “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”
Now, please go grab Bob’s book and start reading! You’ll be blessed beyond measure, a beautiful picture of Bob’s favorite verse:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)
‘Til next time!