As a young man in ministry, I was challenged to write what I’d want my tombstone to read and then live my life in a way to make those words a reality. It was a sobering yet energizing exercise! The phrase that I chose was: “He made a difference in others because of the difference that Christ made in him.”
In 1988, Tommy Teague stepped into my life. He came on board as the Executive Pastor at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, where I was senior pastor. We quickly became more than co-workers. We became close close friends. We went on to serve together as a team at First Baptist Church of Norfolk, VA. I saw in Tommy a passion to make a difference in others that flowed out of the passion He had for His Lord. He also had a way of driving toward excellence in all he did while simultaneously making those around him feel cared about and loved, yet energized and encouraged to be all Christ meant for them to be.
Our families grew up together. Our kids played with theirs and we saw “up close and personal” that Tommy lived at home what he espoused at church. He adored Rita, and she truly was the love of his life; Jonathan, Julie, and Joy were the light of his eyes, and he often told Cheryl and me just how proud he was of the adults they had become. In the midst of all he was accomplishing as a pastor, highly esteemed as a community leader, and in the lives of those around him, Tommy kept his priorities of his relationship with the Lord first, and family a close second.
Tommy’s passion for his church family, North Richland Hills Baptist Church, was always evident. Tommy believed that seeing people come to know Jesus personally was a direct out-pour of his love relationship with Jesus. He was also renowned in his love for taking groups to Israel to experience stepping where Jesus had stepped to know and understand Him better. While I wish with all my being that we could have more years together, and that I can’t imagine my dear friend not being a phone call away, it seems almost fitting that Tommy would step from time to eternity in Israel, a place he’d grown to love–next to the Dead Sea that is a picture and analogy of our lives as Believers: If we only take in but don’t let life flow out through us, we don’t fulfill our purpose. Tommy lived a life of full on giving–allowing the flow of Christ through him to impact all who knew him.
One of Tommy’s last twitters said, “When we see Christ we will show Him what we have done with what He has trusted to our care.” Great cause for pause and reflection. (6/10/11)
Tommy, my friend, I will miss you! As I stand in your pulpit on Sunday, I will do my best to point the sheep you have shepherded to remember you were but the under shepherd. Their shepherd, Jesus, is still with them. Tommy, I salute you as man who finished the work Christ gave you to do, and who lived a life well-lived. You made a difference in the lives of all who have known you because of the difference Christ made in you. Well done, brother. Well done.