Shepherd’s Without Walls.

Loss of a Friend.

Yesterday I did something that I have not done for a long time, I took a funeral for my precious friend Gerald. Some of you regular readers of the blog will have read about this man before, someone I would call a true servant. Willing to do any or everything for people and for the ‘church’ building without the desire for position or title or recognition. Even to try to give him a financial gift would end up in him getting miffed that you would think he would want paying for what he did for God. He was a shining example of service and someone I loved dearly. The only thing at that time was that he was never comfortable in ‘church’ meetings in a ‘church’ building. How naive I was back then to judge him for such things. As he lay in a coma I apologised for my attitude towards him in those days, trying to make him conform to the pattern, when really I think God was trying to teach me through him and his example. Last week I took the blow of hearing the news of his death. I heard in the holy aisles of Asda. That night there was much crying out to God, questions that remain unanswered, memories flashing by. A stillness came over my spirit as I wrestled many of the big questions. The why’s that will always remain why’s. I ended up visiting the family who I have been through many adventures with. Baptisms, weddings, grandchildren, drug addiction and alcohol abuse, friends going off the rails, but also great adventures of faith. I sat in a room with them and all of a sudden I became a pastor to them. In-fact I had never stopped being a pastor to them. I had no church or pulpit, I had no title, position or ministry, but to them I was their shepherd, the one to guide them to green pastures during this time of bereavement. The one who would bring them a cup of still water to refresh their parched, damaged souls. The one who would remind them of a table set before them where their heads would be covered in oil. This man who had served me so many times now had me serving his own family. Giving my time, my life, my effort, my energies, not because I had to or my position demanded it, but because I wanted to. I poured myself out for this family, and will continue to do so. I have realised the function of poimen, the shepherd, the pastor, is not about a trained gift person it is about walking amongst people who are lost, who need for a moment a shepherd just to walk with them. In my own pain of loss I walked with the Gealy family. Not giving easy answers or Bible verses, but time, attention, love. I was a shepherd without walls.

Leadership is Service.

The opportunity to shepherd is not for a select few, it is for all. We all have opportunity to stand alongside someone who is lost and broken and guide them for a while. This is not a tell them what to do thing but a walking alongside, with, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder. Walking broken streets while you listen to stories of pain and need and hope and grace and doubt. Being that refreshing drink offering to a life and not a broken record of set Bible verses to quote that you’ve learned from heart. These people do not want to know what you believe, they need to know that you still believe in them no matter what they are going through or thinking. For too long we have seen every walking person as a potential catch or as someone to bring a quick fix too, but it is time we saw them as people, many sheep without a shepherd, lost, walking aimlessly through life. We do not go to them to point them to the way, we carry the Way. Our lives become the Way. We have not come to lead them but to serve them. To lay down our lives for friends, strangers, walking companions. Life becomes the training ground rather than colleges and churches. We learn from the broken rather than experts in the pulpits. We allow our lives to become part of their lives. Our story is their story. As I sat with the family after the service yesterday I did not feel like the ‘minister’ amongst the bereaved, I was part of the bereaved needing the company and ministry myself. I felt part of them. I laughed with them, I wept with them, I listened with them as they shared stories of past memories as well as hopes for the future for their own children. This family called me their pastor so many times as I was introduced and it seemed so natural and not manufactured by a position I had obtained. Still Paul, but amongst the broken.

Where are we walking?

As I have worked since and slept and risen this morning I thought about the walk outside the walls and the many people we find walking there with us and alongside us and around us. We live to share the road with them. For some it may be a fleeting moment of time, for others our lives get intertwined like a tapestry, woven together so beautifully by the one true Shepherd. Every life can give of itself for someone else. This is not to distinct between believer, unbeliever, the sorted, the messed up, this is about laying down our lives for those around us. Stopping the flow of self and seeing the other. Pouring out as a drink offering for them. This could just be giving a glass a water or having a coffee, but the still waters and the oil will flow from conversation and time spent together. In those moments love flows from the throne room. Healing balm is poured out. Not in prayers but in simple conversation, and sometimes even in the silence of shared lives and moments. Jesus gave up glorious places to walk amongst us. So often the church just wants the glorious places. This was never the call of the church at all, it was always to be amongst, within, beside, with. We do not serve community, we are community. We are people, we are just as lost. It is time to call us all forth as the shepherds without walls.


5 thoughts on “Shepherd’s Without Walls.

  1. Katherine Matthews (Sapphire)

    Absolutely Paul. We become the essence of who God is for others. We become the Way as we walk in His ways. Jesus the good shepherd walked amongst all peoples to show us how we should walk on the earth. We need not marvel that institutional Christianity travels the wide road of colonization turning inward to perpetually fall in love with their own image in the mirrors of self righteous narcissism.

    I met Jesus as a 4 year old when a child should be carefree. My landing on the generational time line was one that would make the ‘good ship lolly pop’ a true fantasy. As a first born Christian, I soon became very acquainted with 2 choices for living out my life. One was that fantasy ship called ‘denial’, the other was ‘son/daughter ship’. But both would be a choice, one that I personally would make day after day. I chose son-ship when the seemingly ‘good ship’ (lolly pop) called ‘Denial’ was prevalent in Christianity. Today, after 50 years of walking in His ways, I am ever aware that the body of Christ in our generation has sold out to this cruise ship. All are paying a high price to purchase such a false existence.

    You have spoken of the glorious places that Jesus left to come down to humanity, in our brokenness and failures. In this past month I have seen the culmination of my 50 years of pain and desperation for my family line turn to joy, all because I chose to walk in the way of suffering. My unbelieving father, who had no need for a God whose children had abused, dissed, stolen and down right walked in self righteous hypocrisy all his life. Simply put, though he knew Jesus was real, he could not get past the stumbling block of the church and its hierarchical control and its iniquities.

    After a few months of serving my dad in the humiliation and loss of dignity one experiences in palliative care at home, God brought my dad face to face with these questions. Because I had identified with him for months in a place where only God can go, a place of such vulnerability and trust, I was given the privilege of an entire lifetime. In a moments time, through desperation for the answers to life and his quest for truth, he asked me how can he be acceptable to a God who demands us to do the ‘church building, hierarchy, hypocrisy’ thing? In short, my dad found the maker of his being, the lover of his soul and finally put his feet on the true ‘way’ and the life. If I had not waited, served and gotten into his broken humanity at its very base level (with all my daughter pain along with it) I would have missed the treasure, the gift of eternal life.

    Didn’t the King come to show us mortals a better way? The humble way, the way of giving. We will miss it if we do not walk as Jesus walked. His life example is ‘the Way’ that we ought to walk. I cheer you on Paul, you are a son in whom God is well pleased. Keep on so that others may see and follow your example -because the true shepherds get down in the dirt of humanity.

  2. Martin Scott

    Thanks once again Paul. Your post in the context of the loss underlined so much again about the journey to any level of real (and usually hidden) significance is through the path of reality. Trying to make others conform and missing what God is doing. So true… Guilty as charged!

  3. Matt Parsons

    Hi Paul
    A great article , no , a great reminder to all of us that true Christianity has feet, and not just bums that sit on seats.
    I only knew one Gerald when I spent some time with you. We visited an estate where most houses were boarded up, sat with some guys whose lives were deeply affected by drugs etc, real people, real needs.
    I’m not sure if it was the same Gerald or not, but irrespective of that, the facts remain that we have broken lives all around, real people in real situations that are crying out for real shepherds.
    Well done Paul.
    Matt (Cornwall )

  4. dianewoodrow

    Thanks Paul. Shed a tear for Gerald, but loved the way you just turned it all around into a lesson for us and for yourself. I’ve forwarded it to my husband who has been struggling over the friends we have lost that he felt he was to pastor. I’m hoping it helps him
    Big hug and blessings back to you XX

  5. pleader05 Post author

    Thank you each one for your responses and words of encouragement. Katherine your story touches my heart and I love what you have shared. Thank you for opening part of your heart to us. “True shepherds get down in the dirt of humanity.” That is a quote I will always keep close to me. Martin always good to hear the cheer from the place of the margins. Appreciate your words as always. Matt that is the same Gerald. One who met the True Shepherd amidst the brokenness around him. Good to hear from you my friend. Diane thank you for your words of encouragement too. Trust these words will help your husband in some way to see the tinge of light amidst the sadness. Bless you good.


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