“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
In 53 years of vocational ministry, Corky Klingenfus has read a lot of Scripture, but none is more precious to him than Hebrews 12:1-3.
“If you were to ask my family or the churches I’ve served as pastor about my favorite Scripture, they would answer, ‘Hebrews 12:1-3,’” Klingenfus said. “These three verses tell us so much about our heavenly reception.”
Klingenfus has worked in Southeast Christian Church’s Pastoral Care Ministry for the last 16 years. He’s visited thousands of people in the hospital, officiated hundreds of funerals and walked with families through some of the most difficult crises of their lives.
Klingenfus said he loves Hebrews 12:1-3 because it reminds him of the importance of community and remaining focused on Jesus above all else as we journey through life.
“This message has been a lesson of inspiration throughout my 53 years in ministry and will be a reminder for the eternity ahead,” he said. “First, Jesus has run the race before us and encourages us to run the same race. He becomes our audience of One to whom we look for motivation and incentive. Secondly, the writer of Hebrews hints that we should look around us and notice the ‘crowd of witnesses’ that surround us. From them, we are observed and celebrated, so we are being encouraged to run each daily race in our life unencumbered by sin and the less-than-truly-important things of life, keeping our eyes on Jesus, who sits in His place at the finish line.”
Klingenfus said that he has witnessed many examples of followers of Jesus being a part of the “cloud of witnesses” here on earth. Before working at Southeast, Klingenfus served as senior pastor of a small church in New Castle, Kentucky, for 19 years, then as an associate pastor at a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for 15 years.
Recently, Klingenfus lost a good friend from his church in New Castle, John Roberts, to COVID-19.
“John battled MS for 35 years and COVID overwhelmed him,” Klingenfus said. “His wife, Mary, was able to stay with him while he was in the hospital, on the condition that neither of them could leave his hospital room.”
Fortunately, friends and family members were able to drop off food and cards with the Robertses while they were in the hospital. Just before John died, Klingenfus and the congregation from New Castle gathered in the hospital parking lot, made a circle of prayer, and video-chatted with the Robertses.
After John died, Mary was quarantined in her home for 14 days.
“The family camped out in her driveway, and the entire congregation met in her front yard and prayed for her,” Klingenfus said. “How sweet it is, when you see the congregation gathering together in times like this. Whenever I see people coming alongside others in times of crisis, I see an opportunity to encourage others and be a part of that cloud of witnesses.”
Klingenfus will retire from his role at Southeast in October. While his time in vocational ministry will end, his service to God will not. He’s eager to continue running the race the Lord has set before him.
“Jesus has run this course before and calls us to follow His example of focus, courage and trust,” he said. “Jesus was able to keep His earthly focus through the experience of the cross, pushing aside its pain and torment to finally claim His place at the right hand of the throne of God. If Jesus can endure the challenge that comes from spiritual and physical opposition, then maybe we can, with enthusiasm, run to Jesus, not growing weary or losing heart along the way.”