|Dr. Bob MacKay (1949-2013)|
I have been dreading the writing of this post for some time. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, is the the fear that these reflections will not convey accurately the love I had for this man, and two, the grief that has washed over me time and again since his untimely and tragic passing slightly over two weeks ago. But to not say anything, which I have refrained publicly from doing so until now, would be a disservice to the man, his family, and all of those whom had the privilege of being shepherded and mentored by him. So, it is with great reluctance that I write this inadequate piece on Dr. Bob, realizing that my words will fail to do justice to the man whom I consider the best pastor I have ever had.
I have been a member of Trinity Baptist Church for some seven years. When I came to Trinity, I had served at another local church as a Children's Pastor for a year. Although I appreciated my time there, I felt I needed to move forward. My now wife, and then girlfriend, Faith, led me to Trinity where she had been a member for a few years at the time. I was instantly made to feel at home there, and much of it had to do with Dr. Bob. I remember sitting in the pews thinking, "This is the first pastor I have met who encourages and lives out a life of the mind combined with the heart." That may sound silly, but almost all of my experiences to that point eschewed a life of the mind. Not Dr. Bob! Where else could I hear a sermon peppered with quotes from Tolstoy, Marx, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, Guinness, etc? I remember with great fondness the numerous times he would quote long sections of Scripture off the top of his head.
It was not long after that, that I decided to become a member of Trinity. When Dr. Bob discovered that I had recently graduated from seminary he was delighted and anxious to plug me into teaching roles there. He affirmed my gifts and encouraged me to further my education to the PhD level if and when the opportunities arose. I can honestly say that he has helped keep that flame of hope alive even in some of my darkest hours of doubt and despair (More on this in a moment).
|Dr. Bob and I on my wedding day, May 12, 2007|
Pre-Marital classes are usually not the sort of thing that one might look forward to, but I never left a session of Dr. Bob's feeling anything less than edified and inspired. I desired so desperately to be the man and husband he believed I could be, and could not wait for the following week's session. I still consider one of my life's greatest honors was to have him officiate our wedding. Often times I would arrive a tad early just so I could marvel at his library! The man was a reader! He would read not just those authors with whom he readily agreed, but also with those with whom he would disagree. He believed in order to develop critical thinking skills, a multitude of viewpoints needed to be consulted and engaged. It was not unusual for him to have a stack of books that he recently purchased laying on a table in his office. I remember him once showing me some 15-20 books that he planned on reading in the months ahead.
I fondly remember Dr. Bob's willingness to spend time with me outside the church walls. There were a couple of occasions where he would take me out to eat, just so we could chat about life. During one such session, after listening to me drone on about my anxieties and fears of never pursuing a PhD, Dr. Bob proceeded to quote from various philosophers and then, like the good pastor that the was, simply told me, "Matt, what you need is traction. In other words, you need to move forward. Take a step, even if it is small. But, you have to move. You need momentum. The time for over-analyzing your situation is over." I admit, to this day those words ring over and over in my ears. It was his ability in those situations to cut to the heart of the matter without a hint of malice in his voice and demeanor, that made Dr. Bob special. His ability to make every individual feel important was another of his gifts. Although, he had limited time, not once did he ever make you feel he'd rather be someplace else with someone else. His compassion, actively listening to the problems of his parishioners and offering sagacious advice, mark him as unique. If ever there was someone who was quick to listen and slow to speak, it was Dr. Bob (James 1.19). I remember reading a quote at his funeral that began, "Bob understood that every individual is inherently broken." Bob's willingness to share in the burdens of those whom he shepherded set him apart. He was selfless, modeling Christ even in his own suffering (Col 1.24).
I am going to end this post with a lyric from the rock band Alter-Bridge and their song, "In Loving Memory" that succinctly sums up Dr. Bob's impact on my life :
"You were as kind as you could be
and even though you're gone
you still mean the world to me..."
I look forward to seeing you in the resurrection, Dr. Bob.