When I was young, there was a girl in my local church that I looked up to. In fact, I often considered her my mentor for my early faith growth. I was in my elementary years, and she was a teenager in high school. Unlike most teens her age, she didn’t seem mind me hanging around her and we ended up becoming close friends. We went to movies, theme parks, and regular parks where we just hung out and would sometimes talk about church topics. I thought she was super cool – not your typical church going girl. She was a tomboy, had piercings, etc. She helped me understand what it really meant to love others, regardless of age, race, sexual identity, etc.
During this period of my life, she decided to open up to her family and the church family and made it known that she was a homosexual. Honestly, I’m not certain of the events that occurred after that moment. However, I knew she got hurt emotionally to the point where she left the church that we both attended. The fact that she was hurt to the point that she had to leave upset me on many levels. Not only did I lose a close friend, but I lost my mentor.
**For context purposes – this was in the early 2000s when more people were starting to come out and The Church was trying to figure out the best way to talk about it more openly, and I’m under the assumption that my home church did not handle to situation in the best way they could have**
I think there was hope that someone would step up to mentor me or attempt to bond with me in a similar way afterwards. Unfortunately that took several years – about around the time I hit middle school.
We got a new Youth Pastor around that time and to this day, he is one of the chillest dudes I know. He was not a typical church goer either. Not only was he very chill, but he was great at discussing the abstract concepts of the Bible that most people don’t like to or know how to discuss; and he also illustrates just about everything – his sermons, what he reads, what he listens to, and what he’s thinking. It is legit cool. He helped me understand how fascinating it is to read the Bible on a deeper level and helped me to know that it was okay to have ideas or questions that may be different from what is considered the normal faith view.
I’m sure at this point you’re wondering what I mean by typical. When I use this term, I’m referencing those who follow the typical faith schedule:
- Go to church every Sunday
- This includes immediately going in, saying a few hellos but generally just going to your pew to have your worship time, listen to the sermon, then go home to watch the football game.
- Read Your Bible
- Really just reading Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John which all have the same story from different perspectives.
- Saying the same prayer every day or just asking the Lord to provide you with what you think you need (but you really just want).
I’m not saying these things are necessarily bad. I think some folks need this kind of faith schedule to a certain degree in order to keep their faith intact (but that’s a whole other blog). I tend to refer to these kinds of folks as the sheep because they are the people that need to kept reigned in by whoever takes on the role of the shepherd.
Now the shepherds, or the non-typicals, go beyond this criteria. They reach out, check on people and get deeper into the faith. The non-typicals, or shepherds, have a tendency to be intimidating to the sheep at first because they’re different; they don’t match what they’re used to; but the non-typicals are so necessary for change to happen. I guarantee you that I would not be where I am in my faith today had it not been for two people I had talked about earlier.
Jesus is the very definition of the shepherd. Sure, he’s often referred to as the Lamb because he was the ultimate sacrifice. However, he was also the shepherd that led the sheep to renewal. The Pharisees, who led The Church at the time, hated Jesus. Those who were unsure of Jesus challenged him, and were then challenged back with new ideas and teachings. Jesus hung out and helped the outcasts. He made change happen. Jesus was non-typical.
Since our mission to try and be like Jesus, that means our goal should also be to become non-typical. I think we all start out as typical, or sheep. However, I believe at some point in our faith journey God wants us to become shepherds, or non-typical. Sheepdon’t make change in other sheep. The shepherd brings the change and the sheep will adapt, learn, and grow.
I know a lot of people who seem to be stuck in sheep mode. Whether it be out of fear, or if they just don’t have the right teacher, I don’t know. I do know that some of these sheep will call or beg for change and then get upset when change doesn’t happen. So here’s my message to you:
If you feel on your heart that something needs to change and you are simply surrounded by sheep and no shepherds – become the shepherd. Don’t be typical.
For those of you are not ready to be shepherds: Do not fear the non-typical. They are there to help you. If you have concerns, talk to them about it. They are there to guide you.