Pastor Bares: ‘Gospel is all around us’
Published 7:26 am Saturday, July 2, 2022
Anyone who has ever heard the Rev. Weldon Bares in person or online, read his newspaper column, “liked” his post on social media or heard him on the radio must surely wonder about his ability to communicate the profundity and power of the Gospel in such a relatable way so concisely.
For one thing, he works at it, continually going back to rework, complete, edit and contemplate the 150 or so works in progress on his computer.
He was called to do it. It was the summer before his senior year in high school, and since then he’s been in a pulpit somewhere in Louisiana for over 40 years. He has pastored at First United Methodist Church, Lake Charles, for the last 13.
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“I hadn’t told anybody, and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I was a 17-year-old kid, so I went and talked to the pastor at my church, First Methodist. He was so happy, and he prayed with me. The following week, the front-page article of the church newsletter was, ‘Weldon Bares accepts call to the ministry.’ I hadn’t told anybody. I hadn’t told my parents.”
When he got home, his mother was holding the newsletter and crying tears of joy. Bares is the middle child of five brothers, and his mother had them in church every Sunday. His mother was not only the single most influential person on his spiritual development, but also on his brothers’ as well. Perhaps, even his father’s, who did not exhibit the same unflagging church attendance until later in life.
“He was supportive,” Bares said. “I think the reason he wasn’t in church as often as we were in his younger years is because, with five boys, he just wanted to have a time of peace and quiet.”
Bares has never looked back. But that doesn’t mean there have never been challenges and dark nights of the soul.
“I have had, and continue to have dark nights of the soul to pray through and talk to trusted friends, particularly in the last two-and-a-half years,” he said. “I didn’t take any classes in seminary on hurricane recovery or dealing with a global pandemic. I am learning as I go.”
In times like these he turns to Biblical truths, he said, truths that encourage and promote understanding of others, self and God. It’s not cookie cutter. There’s no magic fix or formula.
“Everybody grieves differently,” Bares said. “Every dark night of the soul is different. And in times we can’t figure it out is when we have to trust and keep going.”
The irony is that a closer relationship with Christ often happens in the darkness, he said.
On June 12, he spoke to his congregation about this irony using Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark as the springboard.
Bares has titled a series of summer sermons, The Sounds of our Lives and The Gospel. Each sermon is titled and uses as a springboard a popular song. Bares doesn’t do it to be entertaining in today’s increasingly secular society – though it is – or to reach the young crowd. In a time when church growth is on the decline, especially churches with downtown addresses, First United Methodist is growing.
“The gospel is all around us,” he tells the congregation. “We just have to open our eyes, our hearts and our ears and the Lord whispers to us, the gospel of mercy, grace and second chances.”
Springsteen’s biggest hit includes the following lyrics. I get up in the evenin’/And I ain’t got nothin’ to say/I come home in the mornin’/I go to bed feelin’ the same way/I ain’t nothin’ but tired/Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself.
Studying those words, Bares was reminded of his own alienation, fatigue and desire to get out and live the abundant life of John 10:10, the hope of David despite his downcast soul, Elijah’s interrupted pity party and the courage it must have taken Paul and Silas to sing in shackles and even Betty Ford. After her husband’s failed run for the presidency she did a very quick and graceful dance – on the White House Oval Office table.
“He (Springsteen) was in the dark, but he was dancing,” Bares said.
Powerful message, chock full of anecdotes and stats – 22 percent of U.S. adults reported symptoms of a depressive disorder from April 27 to May 9 – and the Gospel, always the good news.
“Darkness comes to the healthy, the sick, the teen, the middle aged and baby boomers,” Bares told the congregation, “to those who have a lot of money and to those who are struggling financially, the married and the single, Democrats and Republicans….”
Bares said God can do for others what he did for David, change his sadness into a joyful dance.
“Sometimes God does not take the darkness away from our lives and here’s the good news, trusting in Christ and holding the hand of the Lord, it’s possible to dance, even if it’s dark.”
Hear Dancing in the Dark and other Bares sermons on www.youtube.com.