I grew up hiking in the backwoods of South Lake Tahoe. One of the first rules I learned about hiking was “To leave only footprints.” The second rule grew from the first, “Leave the the campsite better than you found it.” You may be thinking, “Okay, great. What does this have to do with church anything?”
A few weeks ago I, or we the church, had to send of a very involved family away. This family has been a HUGE blessing to me through the restarting journey. They brought a depth of spirituality and service that was lacking early on. Loosing families are painful, but some are more painful than others. This was a painful one that came with joy. Nothing bad happened, God moves people in and out through a variety of circumstances. My time with this family was up and they moved on to another city to open a new chapter in their lives.
On their last Sunday, I brought them to the front of the church to love on them through having people share about how God used them in their lives and to pray for them as we sent them out to their new home and church. In my comments I said to them, “I hope I left you better than I found you. You know, like camping.” It got a good chuckle, but they assured me that I had. In this moment I learned a valuable lesson.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4, NASB)
“…for the keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17b, NASB)
People that we shepherd come and go throughout our ministries–it is inevitable. When a person shows up at church, or calls you on the phone, or zaps you an email, you don’t know how much time God will give you to shepherd them. He may give you days or years you never know how long you have with that person. But from the above passages, it is a sober reminder that we as shepherds will give an account for the impact we had on the lives of those we shepherd. I want people to leave their encounter with me walking closer to God than before we met.
The more I consider this post, I realize this is more of a prayer to be prayed. There are times when managing my own life and family seems daunting, let alone being responsible for so many others that God has entrusted to my care. My prayer is that God would enable me, and those who shepherd a flock of people, to shepherd the flock in a way that leaves them walking closer to Him–whether we have one contact or many alongside them.