FOUNTAIN: Leaders must search for sheep in the pasture

SHARE FOUNTAIN: Leaders must search for sheep in the pasture
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A shepherd takes care of his sheep in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, on January 19, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCELOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT: -

I am your pastor, dear sister. But in these years you have been in our midst, I must confess that I have never reached out to your husband to invite him to our church. Never telephoned once or even written him to simply introduce myself.

In fact, I’ve not once even inquired about his health and wellbeing. Never asked you or your children to relay a simple salutation to him on my behalf.

OPINION

Never sought to create an opportunity to exchange handshakes, to tell him face-to-face how much he is welcome here. Never expressed to him how this church has a heart for redeeming men who today rightly feel abandoned and discarded by the church.

So I can understand if he might feel at least slightly offended. How he might get the sense that neither I nor the church care about him. I can even understand how it might feel to be a man whose wife finds solace in the midst of another man who doesn’t seem to give a damn about her man.

So I guess I could kind of understand why he now wants nothing to do with me, or the church.

I need — and intend — to reach out to him. It is a small thing perhaps, though not a negligible one.

I too am only a man. A fellow brother, with flaws and foibles, engaged in this war for the black body and soul that consumes far too many brothers. But as a pastor, I am charged by the Good Shepherd — who would leave the 99 to search for the one gone astray — to do likewise.

I have not. And this, I confess, is a dereliction of duty.

I might argue that I have been busy — worrying about finances, busy with “building the ministry,” with meetings, with church functions and an endless list of pastoral duties, and with my own family. Busy sometimes to the point of sheer exhaustion.

Still, I have neglected the small thing. That which requires neither money nor an expanse of time: To show that I care.

And that, I have learned, can be transmitted by a smile, by a kind word, a salutation, a note, a card, a letter, a 5 minute visit or a simple effort.

It is not my place to “assume” that your husband, fiancé or significant male other would not accept my act of kindness or invitation. Indeed I might just be the instrument that helps to restore his soul.

That does not absolve him of responsibility. But mine is to fulfill my duty as a pastor. Heavy is my cross, but He gives grace to bear it. To whom much is given, much is required.

And given the state of black men in America, given the number in prison or jail or headed that way; given the thousands who find our way to early graves and the black men who send us there; given the number of us who seek solace in a bottle of liquor or in illegal drugs; given the number who silently cry ourselves to sleep at night, it is clear that there is a plentiful harvest for a church really seeking souls.

I confess: I haven’t done enough. And I am reminded that I have been commanded and also forewarned.

Jeremiah 23:1: “‘What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people — the shepherds of my sheep — for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,’ says the LORD.”

So I ask myself: “Ain’t black men also the sheep of his pasture?”

And I go out in search of my brothers.

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