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My pastor is a quadriplegic.

March 12, 2018

A7lmost two decades ago late in the evening, a senior seminary student was seated in his car at an intersection, idling in the left- hand turning lane and waiting for the traffic light turn-arrow on his way back to college campus.

The light was about to change.  From a far distance an oncoming pickup truck accelerated to a roar, trying to outrun the red light.

The pickup didn’t make it.

The truck smashed into a turning car, which spun violently across the intersection and slammed into the seminary student’s car on the driver’s side.  His car literally left the ground, the roof collapsing at the point of impact.  The lifting of the car and the caving-in of the roof smashed into the student’s body, breaking his neck.  As his head cleared, he reached to turn the car key.  His hand fluttered and dropped.  He couldn’t move. From that day until now, Bobby McCoy became a quadriplegic, unable to move his arms or legs as you and I can.

Bobby McCoy is my senior pastor.

Bobby will never throw a football with his son.  He will not be able to dance with his daughter at her wedding reception.  He cannot trot up the theater or stadium steps with his wife to their reserved seats when they are out on a date.

He cannot ride with his little ones on rides at the amusement park.

You know this must be hard on Bobby.

Each Sunday after our songleader completes the final chorus, Joe will gesture for the congregation to be seated while he reaches in and unlatches a mechanism on the front podium.  The podium lowers and clicks into place.  It is now the right height for Bobby to preach from his wheelchair.

Bobby moves forward and adjusts his notes with a partially paralyzed hand;  he is able to use a joystick control to move his wheelchair about and is able to half-grasp his notes.

You see his energy.  You can feel his love for the Lord and his love for us.  Each one.

He hasn’t said a word yet, and he is already speaking to us.  Bobby’s ministry is an ongoing one, showing us his dedication in the face of severe limitations.  The impression is with us at every meeting.

His countenance is always bright.  It is not artificial.  His joy in the Lord and His love for us is so obviously genuine that a person cannot but be drawn in by his compassion.

For the past five years I have had Bobby come to my high school classroom and speak to each of my classes about his accident and his reliance on the Lord – and yes, even rejoicing – in the face of such a personal loss.  He will show PowerPoint slides of his demolished car.  Every year I hear some small gasps from among the pupils when the mangled car is shown on the classroom screen.  Bobby then opens up about the Lord’s gentle guidance and goodness.  In this me-first world of narcissism and cynicism, Bobby’s words have a deep and profound effect.  Some students become emotional. Others, hardened by the self-will of the world’s influence, open up their hearts.  All come away moved.  Even years later when Bobby stops by the school, many students will go out of their way to trot down the hallway and greet him.

Bobby’s ministry is more than teaching.  He’s a minister in the Acts 13 sense of the word with the apostles.  If you look in the Greek, the word “minister”  is leitourgeō and means to serve as a priest would in a tabernacle ritual.  In other words, serving as a pastor is just like a worship service to God.  Bobby’s service to us is his showing glory to God.  He gives glory to God  – just as if he were a priest in the temple – when he pastors us.  I find that a powerful passage in learning about the heart that I should have in my teaching ministry.

My classroom service is a ministry, right?  And if I follow the teaching of the Scriptures, my leadership ministry is really a worship service to God.   I give glory to God when I serve in the role of teacher and lead my students in Biblical instruction and counseling.

Hosea 4:9 gives a strict truth concerning leadership:  “And what the priests do, the people also do.”   I have seen our congregation grow kinder and more gentle in the years that Bobby has pastored.  We have taken his lead without realizing it.

I also realize that this Hosea 4:9 principle is how my students will be affected in the days that I am with them.  If I show compassion, they will respond – whether they openly realize it or not.  If I am kind, they can emulate it.  I am not so brash as to say that each of my classes is a “little church”, but I think the principle applies to all Christian leaders.   Think of it:  I am carrying on the example given to me by Bobby’s Spirit-led example.

A very good quotation – some say it was from St. Francis of Assisi, but nobody is quite sure – says  “Preach the Gospel at all times … and if necessary use words.”  This is a dynamic truth that our congregation realizes each week.

Our pastor motors his wheelchair up the ramp and over to his podium and starts teaching us.

Even before he speaks.

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3 Comments
  1. Cindy permalink

    Bobby has a tremendous testimony. Priveledged to know him.

  2. Wow. Just wow! Thank you.

  3. I was a student at BJU and remember when this accident happened. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. Many thanks for posting this and reminding me not only of Bobby but also of biblical principles.

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