Friday, September 15, 2006

Five Weeks, Four Sermons, Three Hospital Visits, and One Communion Later...

It's been five weeks since we've arrived here in Grand Cayman. I've had the joyous privilege of preaching four sermons. There have been three hospital visitations. And we've observed communion together once. And with everything that goes on in between... I'm thrilled to be a member and pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman!

What attracted me to this congregation several months ago was the genuine humility, kindness, generosity, and eagerness in the lives of its people. And I've discovered that what I saw then was but the tip of the iceberg... there is so much more underneath! This is a good church!

One of the things I've been surprised by is the intensity of protectiveness and what I trust is godly jealousy I feel for the sheep here. My "spidey sense" is going haywire! I don't know why I'm surprised by it. I think such feelings must be inherent in the shepherd imagery of the Scriptures. Perhaps it's the degree at which I feel this so early on.

I'm struck and drawn by this profound truth: These people are the Lord's sheep, which He purchased with His own blood, over whom I've been made an undershepherd, for whom I am particularly accountable before God, and with whom I hope to rejoice together at the Great Day of Judgment when all things are laid bare and we will, I pray, testify to our mutual faithfulness to the Lord and to each other.

Recognizing all of this, first of all, humbles me, frightens me a bit to be honest, and secondly, makes me all the more zealous for them.

I want them to feed in the best pastures. I want them healed and bandaged from the bruises and scars left by predators who would devour them. I want them groomed and cleansed. They are "my" sheep to care for, to nurse, to lead, and I pray, if necessary, to give my life for as a good shepherd following the model and teaching of THE GOOD SHEPHERD.

The challenge I've felt most comes from inside. I'm discovering that there is a distinction to be made between zealousness and impatience. I don't exactly know where the line is, but it's there somewhere. Instinctually, I'm ready to press forward quickly... to build fences around the sheep, to inspect the fleece and hooves, to guide them to what I hope is more fertile pasture. Yet, I'm a new shepherd with a new flock and a deeper trust must be cultivated. A deeper understanding of their lives, their history is needed. And they too need to see something more of my life and my thoughts. The hardest part is getting what is in my head and heart out and into their heads and heart. But I need to do that and do it slowly, thoroughly, and deeply so that the foundation on which we build is sure and level and deep.

This challenge aside--which isn't so much a challenge as it is the call of leadership--I am thrilled every day to wake up and call these people "my people," and to hear them call me "Pastor Thabiti." Or as some of the younger cooler ones have taken to calling me, "Pastor T." Only the names my wife calls me have a sweeter ring.

And speaking of my wife... what a rock! She and the girls have adjusted tremendously well and are in full swing. And she is an incredible wife. How much I have learned from her in these five weeks! How she has prayed and encouraged and listened and encouraged and suggested and encouraged and prayed! Her partnership in the gospel is part of how I know I am called to pastoral ministry and to FBC. How wise and good the Lord was in giving me Kristie as my helpmeet!

Five weeks later, we're thrilled to be right where the Lord has us!

1 comment:

Shawn Abigail said...

You make lots of good points in this posting. A shepherd needs to feed the sheep and protect the sheep. But the sheep need to get familar with a new shepherd before they are comfortable with that shepherd. I'm sure God will hear your prayers as you seek the balance.

Paul's address to the Ephesian elders is most helpful. That wolves will come from ourside the church is a given. But the fact that wolves will someday come from among the flock and even from among those who are in leadership should drive us to our knees and will us with a holy fear. Of course the time to begin building the defences (both doctrinal defences and defences based on our relationships with each other) is now. There is no point in trying to build the defences when the wolves are ripping into the sheep.