Leland Briggs may not be a household name any place except Grant Parish, Louisiana. I’ve mentioned him before in some other writing. Leland Briggs is the pastor I want to be when I grow up.
For almost six decades, Leland Briggs has pastored in the village of Bentley, Louisiana. Leland Briggs deserves note because he has served with distinction, raising up a church of hundreds in a decidedly rural setting fifteen miles outside Alexandria. When Jesus talked about shepherds he certainly had someone like Leland Briggs in mind. Even today, Pastor Briggs preaches more funerals in Grant Parish than any preacher – he is truly the pastor of an entire region!
A few things I’ve observed in him and would like to apply.
1. A kind word is always appropriate. Bro. Briggs allowed me to preach for him from when I was 17. He always found something good to say about what I’d preached. Today, when I run into Bro. Briggs he will say something gracious that he knows has meaning and indicates he is paying a bit of attention to my life. It may be a comment about a Director’s Communique I’d written or some service where I’d preached. Kindness is always in vogue and “kind people” are always above average.
2. Hard work, thankless hard work pays dividends. Leland Briggs was (and I imagine is) a hospital visiting machine. He was there early and often. I don’t like hospitals or hospital work; I’ve an idea Bro. Briggs doesn’t either. Still he is there – day after day. Early in the day; and then often making the 20 minute drive from his home several times in a given day. If a person will work hard in the ministry of caring it impacts people more than can ever be known.
3. Giving visible, meaningful and constant respect to people when you don’t have to is wise. I don’t know that Leland Briggs has ever dis-respected any person. For decades, he walked the tight-rope of pastoring quite a number of retired pastors, my Grandfather among them. Preachers are a hard-headed bunch and retiring from being a pastor does not make one’s head any softer. Leland Briggs managed to pastor all those fellows without conflict, controversy or jealousy among them. He honored them equally and gave to respect to men and women in public and private for their long service to Jesus’ work. Leland Briggs doesn’t have to do the things he does to respect people – but to do so is wise!
4. Connecting the present with the past is not a bad thing. On the occasion when I see him, he will comment, “Bro. Carlton, I was just thinking tonight, your Grandpa would be so proud of you.” He knows that the legacy of my grandfather as a church planter and effective pastor means a lot to me. Not only is what Bro. Briggs says a kind word but it is a word that connects the present with a meaningful past.
5. He pastors everybody, even if they are still a long way from the flock of God. Grant Parish has some scoundrels. I’m kin to some of them; Leland Briggs pastors them all. Wandering sheep are still sheep and sheep that have never been enfolded are always potential. The treatment of people in a way that seems to expect the best out of them quite often pays dividends. I’m sure Leland Briggs knows more about the nastiness of the lost people in Grant Parish than they realize, yet he cares for them. All are not yet saved, but a wise pastor acts like each person he has contact with is on the way to being saved.
As I think about it, perhaps I’ve got a long way to go to be like Leland Briggs. I’ve work to do! I salute Leland Briggs – a man of meaningful impact.