There is a distinct pleasure in watching a companion persevere in the faith. It is particularly pleasant to see one of IRD’s dear friends continues to preach the Gospel to this day. The Rev. Ed Robb, III, addressed an audience at Lake Junaluska’s Summer Worship series last month. Robb is the founding pastor of The Woodlands United Methodist Church in Texas, one of the fastest growing congregations within the United Methodist denomination with present membership exceeding 8,400 and an average worship attendance of 4,200. His father, Ed Robb, Jr., helped orchestrate the formation of the IRD. The entire Robb dynasty has continued in a solid affirmation and defense of evangelical Methodism, which was clearly shown by the Junaluska worship service.
After thanking his hosts and praising Lake Junaluska as “renowned for all the right reasons,” Robb examined the lectionary reading of the Good Samaritan. He described how stories capture the imagination and memory; a parable of Jesus is but “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Robb then tried to understand the thought process of the Pharisee and the Levite in the famous narrative. “I often tell myself that there will be someone better equipped to come along.” What is more, human beings dread the possible inconvenience of helping others. “I dare say the biggest enemy of compassion in our lives is busyness,” the pastor asserted.
Robb warned his listeners about the great excuse of “they.” “They should improve this highway…They should care for this person,” he exclaimed, “Who are they anyway?” He added, “It is so easy for us to ask someone else to help instead of accepting responsibility ourselves…Often when we see a problem without an easy solution, it’s someone else who ought to have responsibility to solve it.” Robb described how even Christians wrongly expect spouses to do good works, teachers to teach children to behave better, or (to the horror of the GBCS leaders everywhere) “the government [to] solve all these problems for us.” “It’s so easy to avoid responsibility, isn’t it?” Robb asked.
“If you wait for the perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done,” the pastor instructed, “We can help some people, can’t we?” He also warned, “Compassion costs something…Love is not a feeling. Love is a verb.” Channeling the old spirit of John Wesley, Robb asserted, “Who really loves his neighbor? He who serves him…Kindness is the universal language. It is understood by all and speaks directly to the heart.”
All too often, solid and trusting engagement with biblical texts is a rarity in congregational pulpits. Some United Methodists can despair when they are assigned a particularly progressive pastor who disbelieves the veracity of Scripture or spends his time with social commentary rather than the Gospel itself. Preachers like Rev. Ed Robb remind such loyal members that God is still quite active within American UMC parishes and that He is far from finishing His work in that branch of Christ’s body.
We at IRD certainly wish Pastor Robb the best and hope he sees many years of fruitful increase for God’s kingdom. We also hope and pray that Providence would raise up more men like him to lead the United Methodist Church through the 21st century and beyond.