Posts Tagged With: Tommy Rucker

How My Pastor Friend’s Death Changed Me

2014-03-20 08.05.55 Almost two months ago, my friend Tommy Rucker took his own life.  To say this affected me would be an understatement.  In preaching his funeral, God permitted me to sort through a number of theological issues surrounding his death—as well as talk to the family and friends of Tommy that I hadn’t seen in over a decade. 

But funerals end.  Lives have to go on.  A wife has to pick up the pieces.  Children and grandchildren have to proceed without their dad and grandfather in the picture anymore.  Awful! 

I cannot speak on the subject of all of Tommy’s friends, but I can speak about one of them—me.  God has used this to change me in a number of ways.

  1. I must be honest about what’s happening in my own heart.  Tommy clearly had a dark season in his life up to the end.  Yet, his wife did not know the extent of this.  Neither did his kids.  Nor his church.  Nor did his friends.  And I wonder if Tommy really understood this!  We all must understand our hearts before God and others.  This stands as a non-negotiable.
  2. I must have someone to share what’s happening in my heart.  I remember saying during the funeral sermon, “I wish I could have had another chance to talk to Tommy—to see what was happening.”  You see, Tommy and I carpooled to seminary for over a year during our MDiv work.  We shared things with each other that we haven’t shared with anyone else other than our spouses.  I wish I could have had one more car ride with him.  Who knows?  But now, I know I must have a transparent life with someone with whom I can be accountable—my spouse or even another friend as well. 
  3. I am more diligent in keeping up with my friends now.  Phone calls.  E-mails.  Facebook.  Smoke signal.  Carrier pigeon.  I see my pastor friends online, I pop in and say hello and ask them how I’m doing.  Who knows?  Some may say, “Oh, him again?”  Yup!  Me again.  I talked online to Tommy once per week.  We didn’t talk about much, but it was that connection.  Could I have done more?  Could I have said more?  Sure, he was in Iowa and I in Kentucky—but still… .  Even so, I need to do what I can to make sure all of us minister and live faithfully, and finish well in Christ.
  4. I’m preaching with more passion.  At least, that’s what folks tell me.  I didn’t connect until just now that maybe Tommy’s death is why.  What is happening in the hearts of the pastors with whom I serve?  What is happening with the staff with whom I’m supervise?  What’s happening with the congregation for whom I will have to give an account (Hebrews 13:17)?  What’s happening in our community in which God has placed our church?  So, I’m preaching with much more urgency.  If God can use this clay pot (2 Corinthians 4:7) for His purposes, then I pray He will put in me desire to compel others to chase after Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). 

I’ve been sitting on this for a number of weeks.  It’s so hard to think about, much less write about.  Plus, I do not want to unearth feelings among the family that may be starting to heal.  But if there are any family members reading (Kay, Melissa, Jesi, Derek, Steve, Jeff, Betty, wives, husbands, and children), please know that God is and will use all things for good, even though what happened was not good. 

You know that Tommy was my brother!  We kept talking about seeing each other again sometime.  And I will see him again!  That last season did not represent the totality of Tommy’s passion for relying on His grace.  You all are in my prayers.  Thank you for letting me be part of your lives.  May God use us to be a part of the lives of those whom we care about. 

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Am I a Liar to My People? Pastors and Being Vulnerable

I am so grateful for the ministry of The Gospel Coalition, if for no other reason than for articles such as this.  Some backstory.

  1. As many of you know, one of my brothers in the Lord and in ministry Tommy Rucker ended his life last week.  He found himself in a very dark place, but no one was aware of this until it was too late. 
  2. I preached from Romans 13:8-14 and 15:1-7 on how we are to love one another, encouraging one another in the Scriptures, especially in our weakness.  We have to take care of one another.
  3. I’m reading through Alexander Strauch’s Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church, a study of Revelation 2:1-7 on how we must not lose our first love.  A lack of love inside the church is more devastating to that church than a lack of truth from outside the church.  God is using this book mightily in my own heart.
  4. Art Azurdia, one of my favorite preachers (who has lost a lot of weight—good for him), spoke to The Master’s Seminary about “Loving God First” from the text – you guessed it – Revelation 2:1-7. 

And now, this article from TGC of “Pastor, Stop Lying.”  Here’s an excerpt regarding how one reacted to a fellow pastor for a reason you might not expect:

When asked how he was doing, he always replied, “Great!” When asked what he needed prayer for, he always offered some generic request.

He kept things guarded, impersonal, and close to the vest, even when others around him shared the depths of their heart. I don’t think I ever heard him apologize to anyone for anything, ever.

Yet he smiled a lot. He laughed heartily and kept things as “positive” as possible. But I saw how the people closest to him were positively crushed by his lack of vulnerability. I was one of them.

I shared with a deacon of mine who asked me how things were going, and I was able to share with him some issues that were arising personally (with my friend Tommy’s suicide), and otherwise.  I then shared with him that, as a pastor, I am more comfortable providing comfort to those who are hurting, than I am sharing my hurt in order to receive comfort. 

I need to get over that and fight that. 

I am a Christian on a journey to the Celestial City as every other pilgrim.  I also get mired in the Slough of Despond.  I am tempted to listen to and dine with Worldly Wiseman.  As are we all.  And we need each other.  And by me loving my Lord, loving His Word, loving my family, and loving His church, I have a significant incentive to keep my relationship with Christ primary.  And I have incentive to bring others into my life to make sure I’m not just giving help, but receiving it when necessary.

Am I lying to my church?  I’m sure I have.

May God continue to give me the desire not to do so anymore.

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