My friend pastor Chuck Carlson said farewell on Sunday (October 15) to the folks at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Champaign. He served at the Church 11 years, but he was also concluding 43 years of full-time service in the ministry.
Chuck is a wonderful man, a fine pastor, a thoughtful preacher. Chuck and Betty, his wife, are headed today on the train, going west to their home on Flathead Lake in Montana.
Chuck could surprise and delight me with stories. Back in the mid-1980s when he was at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, getting doctorate, Chuck would attend the Sunday evening services at the Vineyard Church in Yorba Linda, where John Wimber was the pastor. Chuck said here he was a Presbyterian minister and yet he found himself attending the services at the mother ship of this new Charismatic church movement called the Vineyard. He smiled as he told me the story, saying the services were “crazy, wild, absolutely wonderful.”
Mostly Chuck is a really good pastor. He is a good listener. He is compassionate. He is intelligent. He is calm. He always tries his best to build up, not tear down.
As he preached this last Sunday, Chuck reflected on his life in the ministry. He said we never get it right. “And yet, we press on, attending to the way of Jesus and the cross. The cross is our constant corrective and our goal. … The cross is Jesus’ way. He invites us into the crucible of following his ways. … In the end, it is no longer we who live but Christ lives in us. We do not ever rely on our human abilities.”
Near the end of his sermon Chuck said he had spent time wondering what it is that he actually accomplished in his more than 4 decades of ministry. “Maybe the better question is ‘What if it is not about me? Perhaps the better question is: What have I allowed the crucified Christ to do through me?'”
Looking out over the congregation Pastor Chuck said, “Betty and I will carry you in our hearts. Now you must pick up your cross and do what it is God has called you to do. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
And with that, Pastor Chuck closed notebook holding his notes and said, “Amen.”
Well done, Chuck!