210, that is the number of Sunday’s that have passed since I was a part of planting the church outside of Shelby, The Well. 210 Sunday’s as the pastor of a small by wonderful flock of people entrusted to me by the Lord. During these days, weeks and years there has been a lot of time of sermon and bible study preparation. There have been good days and very difficult days; I have cried and laughed. I have seen people come and go. I have had the opportunity to see God’s Kingdom grow and see men, women and children surrender their lives to Christ Jesus and been to the baptismal waters of Broad River.
There in the midst of the Christmas season and all there sermon prep and decorating and enjoying this festive time of year, there has been a time of serious reflection where I have been able to look at myself and evaluate serious myself, even my walk with the Lord – This is some of what I have found to be true. There is nothing particularly special about me.
I am not a particularly good pastor. I am not a particularly good speaker or teacher. This is not a pity party – just stating the facts. There is nothing particularly special about my skills leading worship, playing the guitar or singing or even leading youth discipleship. I don’t hold any degrees of higher learning that might afford me respect among the religious community, speak Greek or been to the Holy Land.
These things are equally true of my life outside the walls of the church. As a bi-vocational pastor, I find my skills at my workplace at the newspaper to be adequate but nothing special there either. Even as a husband and father I find much room for improvement. I am a shepherd.
I am a shepherd sounds like some deep theological or philosophical idea but it is not. Every year at Christmas, my wife and I seek to introduce and reinforce the story of Jesus arrival in a world desperately in darkness by teaching them about the people in the Christmas story. This Sunday, December 12, 2016, we talked about the shepherds who I have grown to understand and even associate myself with more and more.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger – Luke 2:8-12
Shepherds were not particularly respected, not particularly intelligent; their word meant nothing to the world at large and was not reliable in the court of law and their testimony was, well…crap. And with all these things working against their favor, the Lord God came to the shepherd, with all their imperfection and the doubt the hung over their heads and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ, born in a stable, born of a woman with no fanfare or parades or coronations.
I asked my little ones during our time of devotion why they thought the Father would use these “lowlife” shepherds to tell this important message to. The response was astounding from my son Joshua. He said “because they were nothing and God wanted them to know they were loved”. I am the shepherd. I am loved regardless of my lack of ability. Regardless of my past failings and my future is certain because of what Christ did for me.
Why oh why the Lord would choose to use someone like me to plant a church and pastor a group of His cherished is beyond my understanding. Perhaps it IS because there is nothing particularly special about me. It is more likely though that the true reason is that God’s uses the unlikely, undesirable, the uneducated, the “un” you fill in the blank. While I ponder the same message in my heart that Mary pondered, I am reminded of Roman’s 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (me). I am in good company. I am shepherd.