Beyond Shepherd

I was given a great gift on Saturday. It's the kind of gift that makes a person feel humble, blessed and profoundly grateful. (I'm not even talking about the wonderful meal Robert cooked for me---it was our anniversary---although that was fantastic too.) As a fun opening to last Saturday's transformation training, the teams from the four participating congregations were given a list of fanciful titles (Empress, Chief) and were asked to give each other titles, which we wrote on name tags for one another. Our team's names included Charioteer, Scribe, Sprite, Sage and Attaché. I've bragged before about the team from Tiny Church, how open they are to new ideas, how willing they are to ask difficult questions, to pray for each other and to go the extra mile with the work they're doing. They're also delightfully creative.

The other teams that were present gave their pastors the title "Shepherd." It's a perfectly good title, and not one I disparage. It's biblical, and suggested right there in the name "pastor." One group embellished the title and added "Sheepdog trainer." I know that pastor was proud! That's a huge part of transformation work---for churches to see the pastor not as someone who does the ministry for the congregation, but who trains other leaders to do ministry too.

My team gave me a different title. I looked it up later because it was intriguing to me. It has philosophical and mythological overtones. It speaks of a person who brings about transformation of something ordinary into something extraordinary. And it resonated with me because part of my work has been to help Tiny Church see, or remember, that though they are small, and their building is showing its age, and they never have quite as much money as they'd like to, they are mighty people indeed.

It should be said that the title they gave me, like shepherd, is not really mine. It actually belongs to Jesus, who's the one who does the work; as pastors, we simply bear witness. We notice and name what God is doing.

The title is Alchemist.

Again... it is God's work that I hope I am doing. But I am happy to be a part of it and to be given such a winsome title.

"Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people."

Image: Nicholas Flamel, alchemist.