SOUTHERN HILLS DISTRICT
If it was easy, everyone would do it! And yet, Jesus invites everyone to the fold, to lead and abide according to the gift of the Holy Spirit’s power at work in them and according to their willingness to follow the Great Shepherd. Knowing our human hesitance, Jesus said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” in Matthew 11:30. The Lord knows how destructive the alternatives are to living in the fullness of God’s grace. Abiding with Jesus is easier than the alternatives in the long run, but it is still challenging to step up to lead and abide in Christ when others around us do not. If we take up our cross daily and follow Jesus, as he asked us to do in Luke 9:23, that sounds like hard work!
When I was a pastor in Shelby, a parishioner named Bob Dennis had an unusual lesson for youth he would mentor. “Be peerless,” he told them. It sounded odd to me at first. But he wanted youth to resist trying to be like their peers and seek to be themselves, living in the way Christ was calling them to live. He noted that sports stars stand out because they do something that not everyone else does. I’ve noticed in churches that the youth are often a lot like the adults around them. If you are inviting people to an afternoon project helping someone in need, for example, most want to know if their friends are coming before they decide to come. Youth do it. Adults do it. But some youth and adults impress us because they know how to make a decision and step forward. Others follow. That’s Christian leadership.
Shepherds know their sheep have an instinct to stay with the group and they care about those who wander away so that none fall into trouble or get lost. A good group can help people as well as sheep, such as in a church family where people will help one another. When I ask people what they like about their church, many say that it feels like family. Every leader, every committed Christian in a church, is very important to the health of that church and the hope for all the people Jesus guides us to reach.
Some of our churches are welcoming a new pastor, a new shepherd of their congregation. Find some way to extend a sign of blessing and welcome to any new pastor you meet, and also thank and bless those who are continuing to serve your congregation for another year. If you lead, someone else may notice and follow your example, so we can all be blessed to be a blessing.
In John 15:4 Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” The word, “abide” sounds a bit strange to me at first because I don’t use it in everyday conversation. But I fell in love with the word as I learned the hymn “Abide with me” with words penned by Henry F. Lyte (1793- 1847). It is number 700 in the United Methodist Hymnal published in 1989 by the United Methodist Publishing House. The line in verse 3 is a favorite prayer of mine, “Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.” I pray that I may abide with the Lord and help shepherd others as the Lord abides with me and leads me – and all of us together.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Gail Angel, District Superintendent
Southern Hills District:
Rev. Gail Angel
641 Steubenville Avenue
Cambridge OH 43725
Office Hours: Monday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
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