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A Humble Leader of His Flock

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:6

 

On Sundays, my wife, Connie, and I make church part of our routine. When we are home, Sundays involve a later breakfast, church, grocery shopping, and cooking. The cooking Connie does out of joy. And the meal prepared usually lasts a few days. For us Sunday is usually a simple day of recovery. Recently, we went to a new church near where we live. It was a Catholic church that we wanted to try out as we explore our options for Sunday church near our new home.

When do I kneel?

For me, going to a Catholic church is always a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts for a lifelong Protestant. When do I kneel? What book has the songs to sing? And which book do I use to follow along with the service. I am getting better at this, thanks to my brother-in-law and Connie. They patiently show me when to stand or kneel or which book I should be looking at.

But I am always observant in church—not just from an attendee’s point of view but as an observer of the different practices and people in the churches I attend. The Sunday we attended this new Catholic church, I was drawn to the pastor. He was not particularly interesting in his appearance. His head was shaven, and he was a bit portly. He walked and talked slowly as well. At first glance, you might say he was sloth-like.

But he was a Catholic priest, and knowing the education process of becoming a pastor, I knew he was well educated and had to have a high sense of motivation; otherwise, he couldn’t have made it through seminary school.

As the service wore on, I saw that his slowness was deliberate and the way he liked to lead the service. He was not slow and boring but slow and contemplative. He was careful with what he said and how he said the words.

He didn’t rush

During the homily (the sermon equivalent for Protestants), he was precise, factual, and deliberate. He made sure he looked up frequently, not showing any favoritism to one side of the church or the other. He had carefully researched the Bible passage for the week and added a lot of historical context, explaining the background and history to the congregation. He didn’t rush and had just the right cadence. There were no political assertations, just his observations. He delivered the message of loyalty to God remarkably professionally. He wasn’t looking for approval but to deliver a well thought out message to his flock.

When he sat, he observed. I could tell by his facial expressions. They were not obvious or exaggerated but were simple acknowledgments of a well-sung song or a well-spoken prayer.

He observed everything, and I could tell he kept a mental list of what was good and what could use improvements by a simple raising of the eyebrow or small smile. This was his church to lead—not through charisma but carefully and committed to its sacred purpose.

I felt a bit of empathy for him.

He wasn’t flashy and probably would never rise to the position of bishop. He lacked self-promotion and presence. He would be a great bishop or even a cardinal but will likely just remain a simple pastor.

His goals that Sunday weren’t to impress us with his knowledge. He just wanted to make sure we were cared for and that he professionally delivered the message of God and Jesus. No big fanfare occurred when he announced the Sunday spaghetti lunch, just: “please attend if you like.”

Later at home, we reviewed the church bulletin, which gave all the updates to next week’s church life. It included who to call, what time daily prayers were, and the nightly events. They were listed orderly and precisely. But Connie noted something simple that said a lot: the church’s donations exceeded their expenses. Why would I have guessed anything different? When most churches are scrambling for money, this very organized church had its finances carefully under control, reflecting the same values of the pastor.

He was a simple man

I imagined this pastor in budget meetings, espousing conservative estimates and carefully thinking through every expense. Not to cut corners, but to spend the Lord’s money wisely. He is a realistic and effective manager of both the church and his flock.

He is a simple man performing a sacred task, not just out of a sense of duty but also to do the best he could. He wasn’t interested in the glory of fame. His sole focus was on helping our Lord provide a place and sanctuary to worship. He wasn’t hurrying for a reason—his humility in his craft dictated his every action.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Dr. Bruce L. Hartman is the author of Jesus & Co. and Your Faith Has Made You Well.

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

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