S is for Shepard. And Sheep.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Little Johnny was a Holy Terror. I mean he was awful. And the only thing Johnny hated worse than school was Sunday school. Did I tell you he was awful? Not a bully, really. Not particularly mean, just ornery. Even on the hottest of summer days he would wear the thickest, fuzziest socks he could find, just so he could pick the lint off of them, blow it up in the air and watch it float down upon the heads of the other children. Oh the Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Baker, was on to him, but he didn’t care. She would put her hand on his head, muss his hair up and say things like “I really believe God has his hand on you Johnny. I really believe you are going to be used greatly by God some day.” “I don’t like Jesus!” was his usual reply.
Well you can imagine the fear and trepidation his parents experienced every time they walked up to that Sunday school door after service to retrieve little Johnny and take him home. I did tell you he was awful, didn’t I? So you can imagine their shock and excitement when on the way home from church one Sunday Johnny announced that when he grew up, he wanted to be a preacher! Finally, his parents thought, the Holy Spirit had done a merciful work in his heart, and now at the tender age of 7 the Lord had apprehended him for the ministry. “Oh no!”, Johnny said, “I want to be a preacher because they only work one day a week and get to tell people what to do.”
I guess one can understand Johnny’s impression. From a kid’s perspective that may be all they see, though some adults probably think the same thing. I hope you realize that a pastor is not simply a Sunday dictator. Even I, however, developed a misunderstanding about the work of ministry that was just as ridiculous.
I thought God had called me to save Hopkins County, Kentucky. I was 9 years old at the time, and only a 4th grader at Pride Avenue Elementary. In fact, spanning the school’s entire history, I’m the only student to ever evangelize, baptize, and call for the rededication of the same life by the end of one school day. His name was Robert Adkins, and I hope he’s not in therapy for my overzealous behavior. I was merely a man on a mission from God.
You see, early on in my walk with God, I developed the impression that I had to be an abnormal disciple, a “Superchristian” and “over-Saved.” I would live above the charms and trappings of the world, and rescue those who were in them. Well I found out rather quickly that I wasn’t “Superchristian,” and I became ensnared in some of the same trappings that I was trying to snatch folks out of. So I took off my shirt and cape, and started being Dale. For better or for worse, just “Beaver” or “Beav’” walking through my days trying to figure out who I was, who God made me to be, what he wanted me to do with my life.
I traded elementary school for high school, college and then seminary. I’d forgotten all about Superchristian, thought I’d moved beyond the absurdity of that poser, only to find that after seminary I’d become “Superpastor.” I admired all of the older heroes of the church, and I was bent on becoming like them in less than half the time. I was convinced that I could leap people’s problems in a single bound. With one touch of my hand, and a prayer on my lips, all would be well, why? Because I was Superpastor. It wasn’t that long ago that I realized the “S” doesn’t stand for Superpastor at all. To a simple follower of Christ, it stands for Shepherd. My calling may have me doing the work of shepherding a flock, but like you, I am also a sheep. I want to hear the voice of the Great Shepherd—indeed that is essential—just like you. Pray for me as I pray for you to be no less and no more than Christ has called us. Pray that together, in this church, we will hear the voice of our Savior. He leads us and feeds us. Do you know His voice?