By John Pierce

Last Sunday I enjoyed talking with some church lay leaders about the changing cultural contexts in which congregations minister today. One of my points was that current ministers are often compared unfairly to beloved pastors of another era.

While we are grateful for those ministers who led our congregations and shaped our lives many years ago, it is important to acknowledge the uneven playing fields.

News about one of my favorite childhood snacks served as a reminder of a different time in American life when the church had less competition for our time and attention.

McKee Foods in Collegedale, Tenn., just celebrated 50 years of making Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. It was about that long ago when my family began making occasional Sunday drives into this small town heavily populated by Seventh-day Adventists.

“Blue laws” limiting commerce on Sundays meant that most businesses in the Chattanooga area were closed. But a grocery store in Collegedale — featuring healthier options than we usually saw at Piggy Wiggly or Red Food Store — was open on Sunday after being closed on Saturday, which Seventh-day Adventists observe as the Sabbath.

Also, Little Debbies were sold for a nickel a piece on Sunday afternoon at the baking company. We would pull the individually wrapped goodies from barrels and fill grocery bags. While Oatmeal Crème Pies and other snack cakes were welcomed, my bag always leaned heavily toward Swiss Cake Rolls.

Blue laws have gone the way of leisurely Sunday drives and nickel snacks. They were improperly a government intrusion into religion.

Additionally, growing diversity and many other factors now impact church leadership in ways not faced by earlier generations. To name just a few: more weekend getaways, youth sports on Sundays, and high-tech megachurches.

So as we walk our church hallways with pictures of former pastors gracing the wall, let us remember fondly and gratefully those who ministered so effectively for a season. But let us support our current ministers who lead our congregations in a very different time.

And let us express our appreciation to them — at least with a smile, a word of thanks, and perhaps a Swiss Cake Roll every now and then.


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