Note: Here is my speech at the Retirement of my mentor, Mickey Schnider.
I am extremely honored to speak this evening. I am even more privileged to address you all on this occasion. I have the spent the majority of this week listening and reading everything concerning Rev. Mickey Schneider. I listened to his series on Southern Presbyterian history, on the Solas of the Reformation, as well as sermons from the early 80’s. Mickey stated in a lecture in the year 2000 that like Forrest Gump “he knows very little, but has managed to be always at the right place and at the right time.”
Mickey, of course, is mistaken. It is true that only Mickey can claim to have watched the Martin Luther King speech next to Cornelius Van Til, and it is true that he was able to meet some of the greatest theological icons of the 20th century, that he played a key leadership role in the genesis of what is now known as the Presbyterian Church in America, that he was able to sing and harmonize next to N.T Wright, the most influential Christian Scholar since C.S. Lewis, and to show Dr. Timothy George, one of the premier ecumenicist of the last 40 years how to sing “Come Again, Ye Lion-Hearted.” These and many other facts are true. But it is false that Mickey knows very little.
The reality is that though Mickey has been in many places and met many significant figures, Mickey is also a fount of wisdom. And this is why we are here. We are here because we have imbibed of the wisdom of a true prophet; one who has sought God with a fervent passion, who has obeyed the Pauline exhortation to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, and to edify the body of Christ. He is a pastor’s pastor. George Grant said of Mickey Schnider:
Mickey Schneider has been…a leader of leaders throughout his entire ministry. When I was wrestling with my own calling, it was Mickey who reminded me that the pastorate was something to be not something to do. He showed me the way and then modeled for me just how to walk in that way. I will be forever grateful.
This is the fruit of someone who has drunk deeply of God’s wisdom throughout his pastoral ministry.
I first read the name Mickey Schneider when reading through a dedication on Greg Bahnsen’s book No Other Standard. This was in 2001. I was then entering into the dangerous world of Reformed Theology. In the next few years I would then hear Mickey’s name in passing, and I always wondered who this man was. After seven years in the PCA, I decided to consider a position at Providence Church (CREC), and unbeknownst to me, Providence was under the care of Trinity Presbyterian, pastored by Mickey Schneider. Once I became the pastor of Providence I began to make my monthly pilgrimages to Valparaiso to meet with Mickey. Mickey has become the mentor and the fatherly figure I wish every seminarian had before coming to the pastorate.
Mickey has not only—to quote David Wells—the courage to be Protestant, but also the heart of a pastor who lives out his Protestant faith. Mickey believes in the beauty of redemption. He echoes with Benjamin Palmer that “The passage of even one redeemed saint from the deep pit and miry clay of sin to a throne with Christ in his glory, unfolds a history which might command a listening senate of Angels.” Pastor Schneider’s Protestant commitment to a gospel of abundant grace is his legacy. His proclamation of the sovereign grace of Christ for sinners is his living testimony.
His stories have taught me to love the Reformation. His boldness has shown me that to be a Calvinist is more than mere theological precision or a badge of honor, but a way of life. His love for Judy has taught me that the love of Jesus for His Bride is ever growing. His passion for truth has compelled me to seek after it and never grow weary. His ability to turn any proposition into a story has convinced me that life is narratival. His reading of the Holy Scriptures in public has persuaded me that God not only speaks in the still small voice, but that He roars his word into our hearts. His love for memorizing the psalms has committed me to reading it each day.
When Mickey read the Scriptures in my ordination service, one of my parishioners observed: “After hearing Mickey Schneider I now see why ordination is so important.”
Another member of Providence told me that when he saw Mickey Schneider baptize an infant his credobaptist days began to crumble.
When a man possesses the God-given ability to speak and symbolize the gospel, that man is highly favored. He is a tool used by God to capture the whole man. Mickey Schneider has done that in his pastoral ministry in these last four decades, and Mickey will continue to do so throughout his life.
Finally, I am reminded this evening of the perseverance of Mickey Schneider. When a man becomes a pastor he is what the Puritans describe as a “physician of the soul.” A minister of the gospel heals wounds with words of comfort, encourages the broken-hearted with gospel joy, he re-builds, renovates, and restores. He disciplines. And when necessary, he excommunicates. He declares absolution. He presides over a table of joy each Lord’s Day calling the people of God to see Jesus, to eat and taste of His goodness. A true minister perseveres through trials, through his own sinfulness, through a culture that despises the holy, catholic, and apostolic church, Mickey Schneider knows that his calling is more than preaching, or other liturgical duties, his calling is to reflect the gospel with his life, and that this is most clearly seen when he acts as a man of God calling God’s people to find refuge in our Mighty Fortress.
To quote Peter Leithart:
…There is no place in the church’s leadership for the domineering benefactor, the manipulative wheeler dealer…the agenda-monger. There is room only for those willing to become servants to all, those willing to lay down their lives for sheep, for those willing to bear the slave yoke of Christ with humility, grace, and gladness. Only such leaders will bring genuine reformation, because only such leaders labor in faith, confessing that the future of Mother Kirk is in the Lord’s hands and not their own.
Mickey is such a leader. The story of our dear brother is a story of faithfulness; a story I and other young ministers hope to imitate in the years to come.
Mickey, may this next stage of your life continue to be a source of even greater satisfaction as you share and teach us that to serve Christ and His Church is the most noble calling for a pastor and for God’s people. Amen.