Do you know a soldier? You’ve certainly seen one portrayed by Tom Hanks playing Capt. Jon Miller in “Saving Private Ryan.” Were you an athlete? If not, who do you know in your family who was? Are you a farmer? Were any of your ancestors raised in a farming community? Odds are most of us never had anyone in our family tree serve as a shepherd. But many of us have heard of one of the most famous shepherds of all time – the young man who wrote Psalm 23.
Read 2 Timothy 2:1-7.
The apostle Paul wrote two letters in the New Testament where he referenced soldiers, athletes, farmers, and shepherds (the text above and 1 Corinthians 9:7). He used them as illustrations to get a point across in both…and the apostle Peter did as well in 1 Peter 5:1-3. Look at the four categories and think about the Christ-followers you know. Can you see qualities of the soldier, athlete, farmer, and shepherd in someone close to you? How can you affirm them?
Soldiers are trained warriors, ready to defend with honor, loyal to others in their unit and their commander. Athletes are dedicated and disciplined, they work to get the maximum out of their abilities, and push themselves and their teammates to excel and reach their goals. Farmers work in fields unnoticed, toiling steadily and patiently until harvest time. Shepherds care for others, even laying down their lives for those in need, to the neglect of themselves at times.
My Chi Alpha colleague, Daniel Miller, directs Chi Alpha at Idaho State University. He came up under the leadership of Paul Austin, who served close to two decades with Chi Alpha and recently transitioned to local church ministry. Daniel told me that Paul modeled the qualities Peter mentioned in 1 Peter 5 – he was a shepherd to Daniel when he was a college student and the last ten years as a Chi Alpha missionary. Daniel said Paul served his staff and students “not because he had to, but because he wanted to. He was authentic and approachable. Paul always engaged people through relationship and not through a position of authority. He said it was a privilege to know and serve people in order to build them up, because it was a divine trust.”
Paul Austin made his mark as a shepherd and leader of students and Chi Alpha leaders in Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. He created the training process for campus ministry pioneers and best practices for leading staff (with Mike Amiot) through trial and error (i.e., farming), research, and persistence. Amiot told me, “Paul represents someone who strives to see the best in others realized. His work on pioneering, for example, reveals his strategic eye mixed with his desire to see people succeed.” Paul Austin gave up a prospective career in computers to answer another call of God. He models servant leadership and hard work for the rest of us.
Every Chi Alpha group (or church) needs a healthy mixture of all four types of people. Scripture presents the idea that God uses all sorts of gifted people in the Body of Christ. Paul stressed in the New Testament that Christians in any of the four categories should be rewarded because they were working…and no matter the job or role, they should be working at it. The task of reaching an entire world with the gospel of Christ requires a lot of workers doing a lot of work together (plus a lot of prayer). Which are you most like? A soldier, an athlete, a farmer, or a shepherd?
Thank God that he created you with purpose and to team up with others to extend His Kingdom. How can you “work” harder for God? Live communally. Serving Christ is never “grunt work.”
Love is a verb,
©2015 by Mike Olejarz