Sometimes, your church is the last place you feel like you can be open and honest about your struggles. For a minister, the pressure to seem like you have it all together can be crushing.
As a pastor, Mike knows that feeling all too well. That’s why his ministry at Shepherd’s House Ministries over the last three years has become so integral to his own walk with Christ. “This is one of the few places I have in my life where I get to experience the grace and love of God,” Mike says.
As a minister, Mike has seen firsthand how the gospel of God’s grace can be twisted into a message about keeping it all together and presenting a false front. “I’ve spent most of my life living in fear of what people think about me. I’ve spent most of my life trying to earn people’s friendship and love, trying to keep relationships and manage relationships. And that’s a crushing way to live.”
As Mike sees it, there’s no shortage of places where you can hear a litany of the things you should be doing. “Most of us know what we should be doing. We have plenty of people telling us that. We have very few people in our life who are willing to love us where we are, with all the baggage we have.” At Shepherd’s House Ministries, not only is Mike able to share that gospel-fueled, unconditional love with others, but he’s also able to receive it himself.
A few years ago, Mike went through a series of struggles that reminded him of the importance of relying on God’s grace. As Mike has volunteered at Shepherd’s House Ministries, that transformation has continued, thanks to his relationships with the men in the community. “God didn’t bring me to Shepherd’s House Ministries as much as God brought Shepherd’s House Ministries to me. And it changed my life. My kids reap the benefits of what happens here. My wife reaps the benefits of what happens in this place, so I can’t tell you enough about the impact that Shepherd’s House Ministries is making in people’s lives.”
Teaching and sharing from a personal sense of his own need for God’s grace has changed Mike’s life. But Mike doesn’t share his own brokenness with the men at Shepherd’s House Ministries only so he can impart wisdom—it’s often quite the opposite. “There’s a lot of wisdom in this room and I’ve gleaned a lot from it. I learn so much more from what’s going on here than I ever bring to the table.”
Mike believes that this emphasis on the power of God’s grace isn’t just what sets Shepherd’s House Ministries apart; it’s what makes this transformational community so effective at changing lives. “A lot of places in the world address the rubbish in a guy’s life, thinking, ‘Let’s address their problems. Let’s address their struggles and their mistakes. And then, if we can address that, we can get to who they can become.’ But I believe it’s the exact opposite. I think if we speak to the treasure that’s buried inside each guy, then that treasure comes to the surface. And they become that because they believe that’s who they really are. That’s how God sees them. And the rubbish seems to go away on its own.”
That sort of open, honest community can be messy, but it’s worth it. “I think this is the Kingdom,” Mike says. “This is what Jesus wants and what we experience here. It’s not perfect, but it’s safe.”
As a board member, Mike has the inside track on the future of Shepherd’s House Ministries. “We’re getting a lot more opportunities, whether it’s the center for women and children, the men’s center, or expanding the Redmond Cold Weather Shelter.”This growing ministry will encounter the same challenges of any growing organization, but when Mike is asked what he foresees to be the greatest challenge ahead, he doesn’t name budgets, staffing, or infrastructure. Without hesitation, he says, “Keeping the culture. We can’t rely on programs and gimmicks. The biggest need we have right now is to make sure we stay true to who we are.”
Having experienced the power of that culture himself, it’s no surprise Mike is so eager to preserve it for others.