Enduring Grace: Praise for Tom Reidy
My friend Stephen Morefield and I recently published a devotional book, which we titled Enduring Grace: 21 Days with The Apostle Peter. It’s a self-published book mostly for local distribution at our churches. Stephen pastors in Kansas, and I’m in Pennsylvania. But we tried to write the devotional in such a way that it could bless a wider audience. We’ve been praying it does.
I’ll tell you more about the book next week. This week I want to tell you about Tom Reidy. I dedicated the book to him, writing on the dedication page,
To Tom Reidy,
your prayers and encouragement buoy
my ministry in more ways than I’ll ever know.
We Need More Eulogies
Recently at our church here in Harrisburg, my copastor Jason felt called to another church. As we celebrated the many ways the Lord used him and his family over seven years of ministry, one of our leaders used the phrase “eulogize.” Of course a few jokes ensued that Jason was not dead yet, so the eulogies were premature. . . unless, so the joke went, we knew something Jason did not.
But our leader who did the eulogizing pointed out that to eulogize someone is simply to say in public something nice about another person, and it’s unfortunate in our culture that nearly the only time we do this is after a person has died. So we spent some time praising God for Jason’s ministry.
I’d like to spend some time praising God for Tom Reidy’s ministry. I even wanted to subtitle this post, “A Eulogy for Tom Reidy” rather than “Praise for Tom Reidy” but feared what would happen as people shared this post online. I didn’t want Tom to have to say what Mark Twain once purportedly had to say: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
I also hope that in the process of eulogizing my not-dead friend, I might encourage others of the truth in a verse such as 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says that because Jesus has risen, no labor in the Lord is done in vain. At times you might feel as though resurrection, gospel ministry done for God’s glory was a waste, but it’s never a waste. Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for he has risen—he has risen indeed.
Breakfast Burritos at the Golden Arches
I met Tom twelve years ago at Salem Evangelical Free Church in St. Louis. My wife and I and our young family attended Salem while I studied at Covenant Theological Seminary and worked as an engineer for a construction company.
Tom retired a few years ago, but he spent his whole career working for a large aerospace and defense contractor. I mention this because our first meaningful interaction was related to this. I can’t be certain how the topic came up, but somehow warfare and bombs were discussed in a men’s Bible study. Tom and I seemed to connect well, and we set up a breakfast date at McDonald’s to talk about the ethics of weapons of mass destruction. Tom had “top secret” clearance, so I never really knew much about the specifics of his work. He could have told me, but then he would have had to kill me.
We had dozens and dozens of breakfast burritos over the years, sometimes discussing what it meant to be a Christian employee, sometimes discussing how we might better love our wives and children, sometimes how to better love our church, sometimes what we were learning in the Bible, sometimes a tricky aspect of theology like election and God’s sovereignty, and sometimes—perhaps often—the struggles in our lives. Then we’d pray for each other and head off to work. I can’t know how many days and weeks were altered for the better because of those discussions and prayers, but without any cliché, if we had the eyes of God to see everything, I’m sure those meetings could rightly be called life-changing.
Affirming the Call of God
My first sizable writing project was called, A Short Study of The Bible, Homosexuality, and Culture: Helping Christians Navigate the Issues. The booklet was a 6-week Sunday school for local churches that swelled to 30k words. Tom constantly encouraged me as I wrote. Today, I’d never show the booklet to anyone because the writing is so poor. But yet, Tom encouraged me. He told me to keep working on it. He prayed for me. He didn’t even complain when I taught the study at our church and made seventy-year-old church ladies discuss Lady Gaga’s hit “Born This Way.”
And this highlights a significant theme in Tom’s ministry to me and many others: seeing potential in seedlings.
For the last eight years of full-time pastoral ministry, I’m not sure if Tom has skipped listening to a single sermon of mine. I don’t know anyone else who could say that. My wife even occasionally misses my sermons when volunteering in the nursery or when one of our children is sick. But not Tom.
A short email arrives in my inbox every Monday or Tuesday morning the week after I preach telling me what moved him in the sermon. And it’s not just that. Though he lives in St. Louis, he keeps up with our church preaching calendar and knows when I’m up to preach, often sending a text in the middle of the week asking how goes the sermon and what ways he can pray for me. It’s Wednesday morning as I’m editing this paragraph, and he literally just texted me “How’s the sermon coming along?” And my bookshelf at church has at least a dozen books he’s sent me from my favorite authors. It’s fair to say that I know no one like Tom.
I’ve gushed thanksgiving before about Salem Church (here). We even named our youngest child Salem because of the love of Christ we experienced there, which were formative years for my marriage and ministry. But a large part of what made Salem Salem, was Tom. God’s grace to me through Tom has endured in ways I could not have imagined, which is why this book is for him. His labor has not been in vain.
It’s true I need to write more books so I can dedicate them to more people. So many have done so much for me. My parents, wife, and children are yet to have a book dedicated to them. Lord willing, I’ll remedy these oversights in the coming years. But today is about Tom.
Thank you, Tom, for your prayerful, encouragement to me. You and I will never know all the ways you’ve made a difference.