In our last sermon of 2010, Alex tells this story of a conversation he had with me (it’s about 34 minutes into the sermon). And so, in the same vein of Take That’s behind-the-scenes look at the reconciliation between them and Robbie Williams, and the recording of their new album, I thought I’d share my perspective of that same conversation.
As Alex mentioned in his message, a few weeks ago while sitting around our dinner table, he says to me, “Bert, I just want to make it clear – I am not a pastor.” In fact, similar to Peter’s conversation with Jesus, he tells me this phrase like 3 times. And as he tells me I say to him, “Yeah, I know. So? Why are you telling me?”
See, I know Alex isn’t a pastor. In fact I know that he’s got a PhD he’s working on and a software engineering job that he does as well. In fact those are two fairly major parts of his life that take up a large portion of his time. Additionally, he serves in the youth group and regularly attends Roots. On top of that he is a husband, a friend to many, and a foreigner in this country. Meaning, he still finds himself unsettled in this place.
But when he started telling me that he wasn’t a pastor, I was hurt. I knew that the burden of ministry, the perception of people’s expectations, and the weight of his other responsibilities meant he did not want the added burden of being seen as “pastory.” And that hurt. It hurt primarily because of two reasons. One, it hurt because I had expected something different. In fact, I had expected that the partnering in developing and building the people here in the UK was something that he wanted to do. It was a role that he was eager to take on board. And so the expression that this was too much to take on board frustrated and hurt me. I felt alone in the work at bcec.
But the second reason I was hurt was because I realised that I had failed him as a friend. My expectations of him were my own projections, and I had stopped caring about him as a brother, instead expecting more from him. Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that Alex carried a weight of responsibility and burdens. I had just expected him to bear the load and do the work. But in the family of Christ, things shouldn’t work that way. We are not a project-oriented business, looking for profits at the cost of relationships. In fact, Christ’s command is for us to love one another. And as Alex expressed to me that he was not a pastor, I realised that I had lost my way as a pastor and friend, and instead had become just another business manager.
You see, in Jesus’ conversation with Peter, it is never just about what task needs to be done. It is a love responding to love, and the action that comes from it. This conversation Peter has with Jesus in John 21 is Jesus affirming Peter, letting him know that he is forgiven. It is Jesus reinstating Peter, affirming his place in the family. It is Jesus commissioning Peter, telling him how to love. Jesus forgives and restores, then gives Peter a new purpose.
I couldn’t agree more with Alex in his message. Our relationship with God calls us all to take up our cross and follow Him. It means discovering that life with Him means life living with Him. Not standing on the side, waiting for him to do the work. But walking and living with him. And the commission to Peter to “Feed my sheep,” is the same calling he gives to us.
So then, let us continue to encourage one another. Spurring each other onto love and good deeds. Loving one another, not just expecting things of them. But loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbour as ourselves.
These were some thoughts from our last message in our series The Remarkable Life of Jesus and our Strong and Courageous Life in Him. The message from John 21 is available here and all our previous messages are available on the Sunday messages page.