An Unlikely Friendship

I first met Greg in September 2004 in the small town of Pollock, South Dakota. He was the Pastor of a church in Mankato, MN, in the Presbytery of the Siouxlands, a regional group of churches in Minnesota and North and South Dakota. I was seeking to join this group and become a Pastor in Spearfish, SD.

In the years that followed, I got to know Greg and the other Pastors and Elders in the Presbytery better. We met three times a year, and I always enjoyed those meetings. Greg’s church was a church plant, and, when they needed some extra funds, our church gave to support him.

Then, our denomination got embroiled in controversy over some theological issues known as “the Federal Vision” (If you know what that is, fine. If you don’t, it won’t take away from this story).

I was quite adamantly on the side opposed to “the Federal Vision.” I thought Greg was on the other side, and I called him one day to ask about it. At our next Presbytery meeting in January of 2008, I asked the Presbytery to look more carefully into his views.

When the Presbytery refused, I took it to the higher court of our denomination, and they ruled in my favor.

What followed that was a long series of charges and counter-charges, attacks and counter-attacks. It deeply divided our Presbytery. Sometimes, I felt like Presbytery was more like two armed camps ready to take each other out.

In 2012, while all that stuff was still going on, God did a new work in my heart. God was teaching me something different about local ministry. To make a long story short, I felt like I needed a greater emphasis on the simplicity of the Gospel and a ministry that was more geared toward reaching the lost and working together with other Christians. In my mind, I did not connect this to the ongoing conflict in the broader denomination or Presbytery.

In September of 2012, I shared with the Presbytery how the Lord had been working in my heart and how that had begun to change our church for the better. Many were encouraged, and Greg approached me to say how much he appreciated what I had to say.

I then said to him, “Why don’t we go for a walk and talk about it? At this point, what do we have to lose?” He agreed, and we spent the next hour talking together in a way that we had not done since before all the controversy.

That conversation continued with fits and starts over the next year. As I thought about it, I began to see how some of the issues we had been arguing about could be resolved. He was somewhat skeptical, but he agreed to talk.

Eventually, I concluded that it was important enough for me to take the 10 hour trip from Spearfish, SD to Mankato, MN so we could talk in person. We met at Panera Bread there in Mankato and began to hash out the issues. We made progress, but we still needed to talk further.

Then, something happened that made our conversations much easier. Greg resigned from his church and took a call as a Chaplain in the U.S. Air Force. And to what base did they assign him? Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, SD, an hour away!

This was especially ironic because the churches in our area had been quite opposed to Greg and his “side.” It was probably the last place that he would have wanted to be stationed. But the Lord had his plans.

This move enabled Greg and I to continue to meet and have conversations. Eventually, we came to an agreement on the theological issues. We proposed a consensus statement between us as an alternative to any further charges or counter-charges in our Presbytery.

The Presbytery did not ultimately agree with our idea, but it was still a good and helpful exercise for us. Our relationship also began to change from just reconciliation to friendship.

In another irony, I moved away from South Dakota to Tennessee at the end of Greg’s first year in SD. This might have been the end of our friendship, but it wasn’t. We kept in touch.

I remember one day when I was really struggling with some issues and needed to talk. I went down my list of friends, and I came to Greg. I called him. He answered and was somewhat surprised that I would confide in him with a deep struggle. This really began a new level of friendship. We had moved beyond the theological issues, and we now began to help each other as friends and colleagues.

We now talk to each other at least monthly to help each other think through how we can grow as Pastors, Fathers, Christians, and human beings. I count him as a close friend.

I’ve also walked with Greg on his own journey as he has sought the next step in his life which has taken him all over the country from Colorado to Texas and back to South Dakota.

I’m pleased to report that he has now been approved for a call to a church in Louisville, KY. Louisville is a short four hours away. I get up there from time to time, so I’m looking forward to being able to visit face to face with Greg, my unlikely friend.


2 Replies to “An Unlikely Friendship”

  1. Today, we’re quick to analyze the journey of a mile and feel experienced enough to render an instant analysis , when really, it’s long journey of a thousand miles that tells the time-tested story. Thankfully, your friendship with Greg has passed the patient test of waiting it out. Thanks much for sharing the benefit of patiently working through the “wait”.

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