What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

Forty-six years ago, at the age of 12, I embarked on my faith journey through baptism. Along the way, I’ve been privileged to encounter 17 pastors whose leadership, teaching, and support have left an indelible mark on my life. Each one, without exception, imparted valuable lessons through their positive examples, though not without the occasional stumble. Such is the human experience – a mixture of successes and shortcomings.

In reflecting on my journey, I recall not only the pastors but also the ordinary yet extraordinary individuals who shaped my faith. Louise Swift, my first Sunday School teacher, and Jan Baggett, my first choir director, stand out among many others like Lloyd and Alice Redwine, Dusty Woodall, and Bernice Rainwater, to name only a few. Their inspiration, challenges, and encouragement have collectively nurtured my belief, proving that the influence of a multitude of Christians is profound.

Heroes come in many forms, even in the fantastical worlds depicted on screen. In “Reign of Fire,” Denton Van Zan, portrayed by Matthew McConaughey, leads a band of warriors against reawakened dragons in a dystopian future. His words resonate deeply: “Envy the country that has heroes, huh? … Pity the country that needs ’em.” Indeed, heroes are essential, but a reliance on them speaks to deeper societal challenges.

This sentiment echoes the wisdom of Bertolt Brecht, as quoted in “The Life of Galileo”: “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero! … Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.” Heroes provide inspiration, but they are also fallible, as human as the rest of us.

The church at Corinth, to which Paul wrote extensively, serves as a poignant example of this human tendency to elevate figures above the message they represent. Divided into factions based on allegiance to various leaders, the Corinthians faced Paul’s rebuke. His message remains pertinent today: while mentors and leaders shape our faith, it is ultimately God who works through them.

As we navigate another season of pastoral transition, let us heed Paul’s lesson. Change can be daunting, but it is an opportunity to reaffirm our trust in God’s guiding hand. Our new lead pastor will soon join us, continuing a legacy of leadership within our community. Yet, amidst the feeling of disruption, the steadfast commitment of God’s people endures.

As we reflect on the past, embrace the present, and anticipate the future, let us give thanks for the imperfect heroes who enrich our lives and the unwavering presence of God in our midst.