WEEKLY WORD – 6/24/21

Examples to the Flock

Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Peter 5:2-4

I first got to know Bryan Kahue and Michael Rodriguez during WestHill’s 2013 Youth Retreat. I had just returned from Disneyland with Natalie. Michael invited me to lead some songs at the retreat. Though I had been to many youth retreats before, two things made that one stand out.

First, the retreat was at Pastor Michael’s own house. He turned his entire backyard into an encampment for dozens of teens. I had never seen that. Youth pastors usually keep ministry separate from home life. This is especially true for the wives of youth pastors, who like to protect the time they have with their spouse. They also know that those youngsters could turn their homes into CHOP 2.0 within minutes. But Michael and his family were joyfully taking care of all these kids with help from the rest of the church.

Starting at that retreat, I saw that the words “family” and “church” were synonymous for Michael. In the months and years since, he has called me “family”. It wasn’t a hyper-spiritualized exaggeration. He means it. While he has a special closeness and care for his immediate family, if I need to talk to Michael, he is there for me in the same way one of my closest family members would be. 

The second part of the retreat that surprised me was getting to know Pastor Bryan. In all my prior years in youth ministry, it was rare to see another pastor show up. Occasionally, you might see another pastor give a special talk to the students. But Bryan wasn’t there to give a talk. He was there just to help in any way necessary.

I had brought my guitar and some songs for people to sing; but in my haste, I hadn’t fully prepared to lead worship at night. As I squinted my way through the first song, someone flicked a flashlight on my music. It was Bryan. (Who else would have a flashlight?) He was happy to forgo his own opportunity to sing so he could help me.

That kind of selfless service is something Bryan does naturally. My guess is that most people at our church have a story about how Bryan has come through for them when they needed help. He doesn’t just get the job done well; he uses these opportunities to grow relationships and reflect Christ’s love.

In the months and years to follow, I realized that these snapshots I had of Michael and Bryan were part of a consistent pattern of living like Jesus Christ. That pattern is summed up by one word: sacrifice. Not reluctant sacrifice. Joyful, intentional sacrifice.

When you look at our Bible verse, 1 Peter 5:2-4, you see Peter tell pastors to shepherd God’s flock not out of compulsion but “willingly”. That means that they serve because of an inner desire, not external pressure. That is a good description of Bryan and Michael.

Since the Rodriguez family is immigrating overseas to the country of Texas, let me share two phrases Michael often uses. He often ended youth group talks saying, “God has a plan for your life and you don’t want to miss it”. And in elder meetings, especially when we had hard decisions, Michael would tell us, “All we can do is the right thing.” Amen and amen. I’m thankful God planned Michael to be a part of my life and help me do the right thing.

I imagine if Michael could add his two cents, he’d say, “David, it’s not about me.” I can’t argue with that. It’s all about Jesus. So thanks for showing us what Jesus is like in so many ways, Michael. 

Also, thank you, Leslie and Paige, for sacrificially and graciously hosting us all in your home. Thanks for giving up so much of your time with Michael. 

We will miss y’all. Hope to see you soon.

Pastor David