We can all think of people God has used in our lives. Often when some time has passed it becomes even clearer why, and just how much those people were used. Pastor Joe is one of those people for me. In many ways I feel like God built my life around preparing me to be a pastor: the military, teaching elementary school, coaching, etc. all gave me skills I’d regularly use in the ministry. There was something really important missing though – something I didn’t even know was missing – and that was learning what it means to be a shepherd. If I had to briefly summarize what Pastor Joe did for me, I would say he is the man God used to show me how to be a shepherd. Many pastors might be great Bible teachers, leaders, organizers, visionaries, etc but they might not be great shepherds. Pastor Joe is a great shepherd.
Something occurred to me recently as I was reflecting on everything I’ve learned from Pastor Joe. I saw his patience and graciousness toward all the people in his care. That’s how I learned from him: watching his example…watching him shepherd others. Then it hit me: I think I learned the most about shepherding from the way he shepherded me. I learned the most about how to treat people from the way Pastor Joe treated me. It was the patience and love he showed me that really taught me. When I started at Grace Baptist (GBC), you could say I was fresh out of Calvary Chapel. There was the way CC did things (aka: “the right way”) and the non-CC way (aka: “the wrong way”). Now don’t get me wrong: I like CC. I learned a lot at CC, especially how to teach God’s Word, but just like other churches, including WCC and GBC, CC isn’t perfect. I had lots of rough edges. I can hear some of you saying, “When you got to WCC you still had lots of rough edges” or “If Pastor Joe was such a great shepherd then why didn’t he get rid of those rough edges?” That’s fair…but believe it or not, my rough edges used to be even rougher. Pastor Joe was the very loving and patient shepherd God used to work on those rough edges. Something funny is now I deal with people and I think, “God, you do have a sense of humor, because this person is acting toward me exactly like I acted toward Pastor Joe. Please help me to be to this person like Pastor Joe was to me.”