A Champion Steps Down

If you are a church member, church leader, or minister, you have lost a champion.

At 7:45 a.m. on July 11, Charles Siburt passed from this earth. Surrounded by family, Charlie eased away from a three-year battle with multiple myeloma. A cancer of the bone marrow and thus a disease of the blood, this illness is a particularly vicious opponent.

Charlie and Judy, his wonderful wife, never retreated from their fight against this pernicious enemy. Often hospitalized for treatment, Charlie continued his life-long work of helping churches deal with conflict, confusion, and chaos. He was actively involved in teaching his classes to graduate ministry students even in the last weeks of his life. And calls to Charlie for help for churches continued to the end.

Two days before Charlie left us, I received a call from a minister who wanted to know if I could talk to Charlie on his behalf. At that time, Charlie had grown too ill for much conversation and I declined to carry the message. But on my way to the hospital to visit, the thought occurred to me that the minister could have simply walked the halls of his church and “talked” to Charlie there. You see, I have became convinced that nothing that was done or said in churches ever escaped him. More than anyone I’ve ever known or will ever know, Charlie had his finger on the pulse of churches.

The “finger on the pulse” metaphor is an appropriate one. Charlie was known as the “church doctor.” He could catalog symptoms, make a diagnosis, and prescribe proper treatment for ailing churches and their members and deliver an astonishing recovery rate.

He was also adept at preventative treatments. Charlie pioneered in areas of Christian leadership training. He and Judy were partners with other godly couples in giving care to fatigued and hurting ministers and their spouses.

Charlie was a practical man, as well. He devised process and procedure that has provided countless churches with the tools they need to effectively search for new ministers and to select new leaders.

Charles Siburt — preacher, professor, elder, consultant, firefighter, church doctor. All of those title are appropriate. Closer to home, we also knew him as an incredible husband, father, brother, and grandfather. Charlie understood family and the importance of nurturing those of the Siburt clan. That may have been his crowning achievement.

I was blessed to have Charlie as my friend. He was all of those other things, of course. Yet, when I sat at his table or heard his big, booming voice on the other end of that phone, Charlie was my friend. I would estimate that several thousand others could make that claim, too.

I’m going to miss him. But I’ll never forget him. You don’t forget a champion for peace.

Matthew 5:9 — “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”