You don’t know him. He hasn’t written any books. He doesn’t have a podcast. He doesn’t write for a blog. Yet, last month I was able to sit in the pew one last time as he preached his final sermon after 43 years of ministry in the same congregation. For 43 years this man taught, served, and lived life among God’s people, shepherding a flock in a variety of ways, Director of Christian Education, and Pastor. Yet, you don’t know him. You have most likely never heard of him before. Yet, he has faithfully gone about his work. He has visited shut-ins, he has preached thousands of sermons, he has married some and buried more. His hands have delivered the goods, have brought the Body and Blood of Christ to the mouths of broken people reaching out to touch Jesus. His hands have, for a moment, become the hands of Christ as they reach into water and adopt children into the family of Christ through baptism. He will have finished a long faithful ministry as an under-shepherd and yet, you don’t know him.
There are a lot of them you don’t know. The everyday Pastors who proclaim God’s Word to churches that are placed on a wide open piece of land in rural America, which some deem to be the “middle of nowhere.” There are a lot of them you don’t know. The Pastors who minister humbly to drug addicts and walk with people through recovery in run down churches in the middle of the city. There are a lot of them you don’t know. The Pastors of mid-size suburban churches who strive to call their people to God’s Word amidst mini vans and basketball games. There are a lot of them you don’t know. The Pastors who hit the pavement as they walk around and pray for the community where they will soon plant a church. There are a lot of them you don’t know. The Pastors who serve both God and country, the Chaplains who bring God’s word to the men and women of earth, air, and sea. These are Pastors and yet you don’t know them.
They aren’t perfect. There were things they don’t do well. There are more than enough sermons that aren’t all that great, sort of confusing, hard to listen to, and not all of them are the most engaging preachers. They forget to visit people every now and then, maybe they don’t reach out when they should have and occasionally aren’t aware someone hadn’t worshiped in a few months. They are humans beings after all, the sinners that God puts in place to bring His gifts to the dying. Yet just like their successes and triumphs, you don’t hear of their failures. They won’t be in the news or trending on Twitter, instead they will repent, ask forgiveness, wake up, get after it again, and after all is said and done, you won’t know them.
In the world of Celebrity Pastors, those that are heard on podcasts, who write best sellers, and who preach through screens to multiple locations, there are countless pastors who go about their work faithfully only known to the people they serve. These Pastors are the ones who do not care about their shoes or their wardrobe but instead they care about stubbornly pointing people to Jesus. These are the Pastors in the trenches who go to the doors of grieving families and enter into their homes and bring them words of comfort. These are the Pastors who teach the grannies about the love of God and then go and sing songs about sheep with preschoolers. These are the Pastors who play dodgeball with high schoolers and grab beers with the blue collar workers. These are the Pastors who do not preach viral sermons for people to download across the country, but instead they preach sermons that are like intimate love letters to the Bride of Christ that has been commended to their care. And yet, you don’t know them.
If you are reading this, and you find yourself one of the unknown, one of those Pastors in the trenches. I have some words which I shared with the Pastor of my childhood as he preached his last love letter to the Bride he was given. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” You have done well to rightly proclaim God’s truth to His people. You have done well to feed His sheep. You have done well to point away from yourself and to the cross. You may not have received the recognition you deserve. The hours of sleep you lost may never be compensated. The amount of family occasions you missed may never be replaced. Yet, you have done well in pointing people to Jesus. Yet, while no one may know you, your Father in heaven does. He knows you, and to you He says, “Well done.”