Shepherd’s Care: The Ripple Effect

I was speaking in a Pastors’ Conference some time ago.  I was talking about how our decisions inevitably affect others.  I illustrated it by the story of a pastor who rarely took a vacation.  After I told the story, it was time for a break.

A pastor and his wife came up to the podium, and he engaged me in a semi-humorous way saying, “I haven’t taken a vacation in thirteen years, and I don’t think it’s hurt me.”

His wife, standing directly behind him, heard his remark and instantly said, “Maybe not.  But it’s almost killed me.”

I’m telling you, the pastor looked like he had been hit from behind with a baseball bat.  And I was totally surprised that his wife would say such a thing to me, a stranger.  But she did, and as they walked out for the break time, I imagined that they were about to have a “very interesting’ conversation.

One of the dangers in ministry is that we do not consider the ripple effect that our decisions have on those around us.  I know that I have failed to consider this with respect to Jeannie, my children, and others over the years.  Most of the time, they have quietly absorbed the ramifications.  And that’s why more preachers’ families will be in heaven than preachers!

But seriously, we need to realize that we never make a “personal” decision.  It always impacts someone else some way.  We may naively say, “I haven’t _________in thirteen years, and I don’t think it’s hurt me.”  But there may be someone standing beside us or behind us who would say, “Maybe not.  But it’s almost killed me.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Shepherd’s Care: The Ripple Effect

  1. Margot R Thompson says:

    Good Morning Dr. Steve —
    It is true of everyone that we live in the “web of life” where each movement sends impulses and consequences to those around us. It seems to me that shepherds can dwell in “what I’m doing” more than in “what we’re doing.” A dose of humility might give pastors and other church leaders a purer perception of Christian community and our role in it. The sanction for this self-absorption may derive from the model found in Wesley’s life, as well as the lives of other spiritual giants. Who can say how this dose should be delivered? Telling the truth might be a start.

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