Brotherhood! What does it mean? Is it important to those of us in ministry?
FENTON, MI – This fall at a meeting at the North American Mission Board, one of my brothers in the ministry by the name of Noah Oldham shared a story about his early years. I was so shaken by his reflection on life that I asked for permission to adapt his story for this column. I hope his story will tug at your soul in the same way it jerked me upright, calling me to create a culture of brotherhood wherever I live and serve. Noah Oldham is a Christian, husband, father, church planter, pastor, send city missionary, and personal trainer.
Noah Oldham said: “I grew up in a family of 3 brothers. My father did something ingenious and special for us while we were growing up. He gave us a family motto: “Honest, brave, strong, and tough, we are Oldham boys!” As boys we were proud of our shared identity. Now as adults raising our own families, we continue to be very proud of our shared identity. My brothers and I, still very close, have put the family motto on signs that hang in each of our sons’ rooms.
When my brothers and I were younger we played sports together. As we entered high school, each one of us started specializing in our favorite sport. My sport was football. My older brother played basketball. My younger brother ran track. Each of us had a team, but we remained brothers. I did not play basketball in high school, but I went to every game my brother played. He always did the jump ball for his team. Just a split-second before the tip-off the people in the gym would fall silent and at that moment I would scream, “Get-up Nate Dogg!” My brother would make eye contact with me and nod acknowledgment. I did that ritual every time, every single time.
When I became a sophomore at university, my younger brother ran track during his senior year in high school. I ran track during my high school years only to stay in shape for football. I did not like running track but during my sophomore year in college I rearranged my work schedule and class schedule so I could attend every track meet in which my younger brother ran. I would carry his starting blocks. After the pop of the starting gun went off, I would yell at the top of my lungs, “Go Nick go,” until he completed every single 100-meter race.
Why did I go to the basketball games and the track meets? It was not because I loved basketball. It was not because I loved track. It was because Nate, Nick, and I remained brothers even though we were on different teams. Looking back on my childhood I realize that my father intentionally created ways for my brothers and I to stay connected. Being in the middle, I could play up with my older brother Nate or play down with younger brother Nick, but most of the time all three of us played together.
When we moved from Chicago to my parents’ hometown of Eldorado, Illinois I was six years old. My father did a few strategic things. First, he built a clubhouse for us. Second, he built a basketball court with adjustable goals. Third, he made certain that we always had a video game with multiple controllers. Looking back now, I realize what my father did was on purpose. He was helping his sons to create brotherhood. We found our space in the clubhouse. We faced off with one another on the basketball court or played united against others. Shoulder to shoulder we played video games or defended our fort against the neighborhood kids. Everything created a brotherhood.”
As I relive hearing Noah’s story one more time, here are the lessons for us in ministry:
We share a calling to spread the Gospel which overshadows our differences
Diversity is our strength, not our weakness: old guys, young guys, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, immigrants, language groups, reformed, and non-reformed
We are called to different contexts: rural settings, small towns, suburban sites, metropolitan mosaics, urban center cores, and different people groups
We must share life with one another: lunches, coffees, family times, serve one another, and attend one another’s celebrations
Brotherhood! What does it mean? Is it important to those of us in ministry? It means everything. It is vitally important to all of us even if we do not recognize it or admit it. Go hug your brothers!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.