The Least of These

By Ross Engel

“You know Pastor, not every pastor would do what you did today. Thank you.”

I had just spent the day driving through the inner-city with two older ladies. My role was to make sure we didn’t get lost or accosted while we were in the rough part of town. Our mission for the day was to complete all the necessary steps to get one of the ladies on a path that would get her back on her feet for good. We accomplished our tasks and even managed to have a few laughs in the process! It was an enjoyable time, despite the circumstances.

“Not every pastor would do what you did,” she had said. That simple compliment really got me thinking. My initial thought was, “well of course other pastors would do this, wouldn’t they?” Most of the pastors I know wouldn’t hesitate to help out a parishioner in need. Offer a ride. Sit in a government office building waiting with them. Most pastors would make their best effort to be present for the needs of one of their parishioners.

I got to wondering about this as the day went by. Some of the leadership books that I’ve read over the years would have encouraged me to delegate this task. Perhaps an elder could have taken the lead for this mission. One of my favorite thinkers on the topic of leadership would perhaps have encouraged me to make use of “Decentralized Command.” Of course that same author also points out that “good leaders take the toughest job on the boat.” (Thanks Jocko!)

But was this an example of what the disciples discussed in Acts 6 when they remarked, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the Word of God in order to serve tables” (Acts 6:2). Was my day, a neglecting of God’s Word for the purpose of waiting on tables? Was this something I should have delegated to someone else? What would an older and wiser pastor have done?

I know when it comes to pastoral practice, it is easy to find pastors on both ends of the spectrum. On one end you have pastors that never leave their offices for anything. They study the Scriptures, read the Confessions, write sermons and Bible studies, (all good and faithful things) and they serve their congregations without ever leaving the confines of their office. Their congregations love them because they can always find their pastor. On the other end of the spectrum there are pastors who are only seen on church property on Sunday mornings. They are out in the community constantly. Sometimes their congregations complain because no one ever knows where the pastor is or what he is doing. While these are two polar opposites, the reality is that most pastors fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Keeping that balance is important!

As I contemplated my day, wondering whether or not this had been a good use of my time or not, I considered the joy and relief on the faces of those whom I helped. I considered the fact that as I helped this member of my own flock, other people witnessed a pastor out and about, keeping two ladies safe in the rough part of town. They saw a pastor, poorly pushing a wheel chair over cracked and crumbling sidewalks, a pastor sitting on a hard plastic chair in a run-down government building – a building overflowing with the forgotten and neglected of the community, they saw a pastor walking with someone through a challenging season in their life, and they saw a pastor praying for his people. Those who were bold enough to hit me up for money and other forms of help, got to hear about Jesus and His love and forgiveness for them. Perhaps as others saw all these things, they saw also the way that Christ is present with His people through the church and her ministers.

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I realize that the time out of the office will force me to be more focused on my other duties in order to get them all accomplished on time. I’m ok with that. Because while some might argue that I neglected the duties of the pastoral office, I rejoice that I was able to help a member of my flock, one of the least of those among us.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:34-40

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