Open Letter to Pastor Mike Toby

I’ve let this letter sit in my box for a few weeks since we last spoke. It never felt right to “put it out there” to the public, until today – the day you went to be with Jesus.

Pastor Toby –

When we spoke a couple of weeks ago, I was able to share with you my thoughts on our time together, and I’m grateful that you listened and shared with me your thoughts of God’s grace. You challenged me to keep preaching the gospel, to work hard for the glory of God, and to love Abby and the girls well. Your words affirmed God’s grace and generosity during our time together. It was God’s providence that made our paths cross, and it will be God’s providence that they pass again. You personally took time to invest in me week in and week out, and those hours which could actually be days, are some of my cherished memories with you as my Pastor.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard your voice with you asking me what my interest was in moving from Lubbock to Waco. You were calm, and commanding, but full of grace. You proceeded to ask me difficult questions of which I suppose I answered to your pleasing, because well, you hired me. You took a chance on a young man with a new wife, but it did not take long for us to fall in love with First Woodway and for us to fall in love with you.

We had some robust dialogues over a variety of theological and philosophical topics and out of that, my affection for you only grew. You could debate with the best of them, even when we disagreed, you would always turn to me and invite me to share the load of shepherding the gospel together at First Woodway. What an example of mentoring and empowering you were.

One of my favorite times together were during staff retreats when I’d try to beat you to breakfast, and often did – but it was rare. During those early morning breakfasts, you would pour out your wisdom and thoughts of the future of First Woodway. You loved that church. You married two women in your life, one was Jackie, and the other was First Woodway. What an amazing example you were to young pastors in loving your wife first, then the church.

From our weekly conversations together, you challenged me, encouraged me, and often rebuked me. Your example of service and care were unmatched, and those times will be missed. I’ve had five pastors in all my life, but you are the one that I will forever consider “My Pastor.” You had a knack for putting your arm around me at the right time, calling me your “bud,” and sharing with me your affection for me and my family. For that, I’m thankful and grateful. I hope to model this same love with those whom I have the privilege of shepherding. I’m glad I had the chance to serve under you, and I pray I’m half the pastor to others as you were to me. Thanks for the blessing of knowing you.

Our loss is your gain.

Thanks for reading and grieving with me. He was a good man, and in all of this, we rejoice.

  • Cathy Criner

    Excellent words, Michael. I, as your mother am grateful as well for the time he took to help you grow…his encouragement to and for you. You are a blessed young man. You know he and Grandaddy are having a marvelous time in heaven! Love you son so much and am praying mightily for you this week.

  • lauren stiles

    wow, he was a wonderful, Godly man and I was so privileged to be under you Michael as well as Dr. Toby, what a man of God. You Michael exhibit a lot of those traits as well. Miss you and your family.