In August of , Rev. Arthur Besteman gave up preaching. He’d hoped to continue until he was 85, the age at which his wife’s father retired, but he was 80 and felt that it was time. He still goes out on pastoral visits and conducts funerals. In fact, the same week he gave up regular preaching he officiated at two funerals.
Rev. Besteman originally retired almost 15 years ago, at age 66, but he found retirement didn’t suit him. In God’s providence, he was asked to be Stated Supply for the Kalamazoo URC for a year, then at the URC in OliveCenter for 20 months, and then two times each at Eastmanville URC and Walker URC.
Rev. Besteman received his B.D. from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1958 and did one year of graduate study at Westminster Theological Study in Philedelphia. He accepted a call to the CRC in Leota, MN.
“All through seminary I had hoped that somewhere was a small church I could serve,” he says. “I was led to accept the largest church to which I received a call. The church was over a hundred families and had been without a pastor for twenty months. It taught me to depend upon the grace of God. Later on when I had five funerals in ten days, it was the grace of God that carried me through. The first service I conducted after my ordination was that of a 3½ year-old who was killed the day I was examined. It taught me to depend upon the Lord, a lesson which served me throughout my ministry.”
Rev. Besteman served his first five years in Leota as a bachelor, but people were constantly introducing young women to him. When some good friends suggested that the next time he was in Grand Rapids he have coffee with their acquaintance, Audrey Honderd, who worked as a case worker there, he thought, “What would a cup of coffee hurt?”
The two were married in September of 1964 and now have three children and nine grandchildren. One daughter teaches in the Dominican Republic, but her family recently returned to the States when their child was diagnosed with leukemia and subsequently spent 17 days in intensive care. The Bestemans are thankful that retirement allows them to spend more time with their daughter and her family, despite the reason for their return.
Following the Besteman’s marriage in 1964, Rev. Besteman went on to serve several congregations in Michigan: Messiah in Hudsonville from 1964-1972; North Street in Zeeland until 1986, when he accepted a call to the Beverly CRC in Wyoming. That church became an independent congregation affiliated with the ARC in 1992 and part of the URCNA in 1996. He retired in 1999 and began a new avenue of service to the churches.
The joys during his 55 years of ministry have been the “privilege of proclaiming the gospel of salvation” and “seeing that gospel highlighted in the lives of so many who made their profession of faith.”
“Another highlight was the establishment of the United Reformed Church,” he adds. “Having served on two boards of the denomination with which I was formerly affiliated, it was a great privilege to serve several terms on the Board of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and know that the members were of like mind and theology.”
He has found it rewarding to see the Spirit’s work in people’s lives.
“The greatest reward was the faithful attendance of people of all ages and of all backgrounds to the preaching of the Word,” he says. “It was rewarding to see people growing in the faith.”
But ministry is never without its struggles. He says, “The biggest challenge of the ministry was to remain faithful to the gospel. Closely related to that was the challenge of loving the many different kinds of people who made up the church of Jesus Christ.”
Rev. Besteman believes the most crucial issue facing the church today is remaining true to the Word of God: “It is such a temptation to adopt the various methods that the church world adopts to attract members. And it goes from one attempt to another with no one thing working for long.”
When asked what advice he’d give young ministers today, he provides a list that prioritizes preaching.
“Young pastors have to be convinced that the power of the pulpit is in the preaching of the Word.” He adds, “The preaching of the Word alone can satisfy the hungering of the human heart. Young pastors also must be careful whom they marry. A pastor must be sure that his wife is willing to share his time and concern with others. Young pastors must also know when they should end their sermons. They don’t need to say everything they know in a single sermon. They must learn to respect their elders.”
Rev. Besteman also offers some insight for lay people: “The person in the pew must demand from the pulpit that the Word of God is preached. The person in the pew must demand that the sovereignty of God is proclaimed. Nothing less than the Reformed faith.”
After an intense stint of chemotherapy and a heart attack in recent years, Rev. Besteman is thankful to still be able to do the Lord’s work. He says, “It amazes me that the Lord has entrusted me with the responsibility and privilege of proclaiming the gospel for all these years.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 26 & 27 of the December 11, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal as part of the series “Shared Wisdom: Tapping into the experience of seasoned ministers.”