I rode my Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle for over 10,000 miles before I ever considered allowing a passenger on the bike. It was easy to not have passengers for several reasons.
First of all, my wife had two requests when I took the Rider’s Course in August of 2010. The first was that I not ask her to ride with me. The second was that I keep my life insurance premium paid.
Secondly, I knew my limitations: a rookie rider has no business taking on passengers.
Thirdly, my bike did not have a passenger seat. Problem solved.
Later, when I acquired a motorcycle with a passenger seat, several people wanted to ride. Mostly, these were young people from the church where I serve as pastor. And there were the grandkids.
With the passage of time and the acquisition of several thousands of miles, I became more comfortable on the Harley. My trips took me to central Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, and all over Georgia. Riding became enjoyable as I gained experienced and confidence. In fact, except in the case of rain, I would rather ride than drive.
The first ride I gave was to a 14-year-old girl in the congregation whose parents gave permission and were present. I found myself being cautious and staying well under the speed limit.
There were several other passengers in the months to follow, four of whom were older but teenaged grandchildren. Again, on each ride, I rode with caution, doubled my alertness, kept it slower than any of the kids wanted to go, and often inquired during the ride if they were doing okay. All of them wished I would go faster.
I wondered why I was so cautious when the passengers were with me when, as a solo rider, I simply hit the highways and headed out to wherever I was going.
As I pondered, I realized that I was being cautious because the cargo was so priceless. As long as it was just me on the bike, I only worried about my own safety, my own enjoyment, my own comfort.
But when they were with me, it was no longer just about me. If I crashed and burned, that was one thing. But the thought of crashing and burning while carrying priceless cargo was unthinkable, unimaginable, and unacceptable.
All of which, oddly enough, led me to think about the pastoral ministry.
I realize that the ministry, as with all professions, has within it people who are concerned primarily about themselves, their careers, their salaries, and their image. I believe, however, these people are in the minority.
Most of the pastors I know are very aware that they are responsible for priceless cargo. They know that the influence they have on people could help them through life or it could damage them irreparably.
One pastor of my personal acquaintance was accused of something he did not do. Several urged him to fight the allegations, but he declined, choosing to resign. Why? “Because,” he said, “a fight would hurt the church.” Priceless cargo.
Another pastor of my knowledge refused a raise for several years in a row, informing the board that he wanted the money to go to the other staff members who were suffering the effects of a difficult economy.
Many pastors of smaller churches choose to work a job and decline any pay from the church they serve. Why? The church can’t afford it, they say. These shepherds want to be a blessing and not a burden. It’s about carrying priceless cargo.
A few days ago, a friend shared with me about a pastor who preached that there “was too much grace” in the Church. I couldn’t disagree more. I believe that there needs to be much more grace, copious amounts of mercy, limitless compassion, and tangible expressions of love and selfless care demonstrated. The cargo is just too priceless to be treated roughly.
The people I carry on the back seat don’t understand why I don’t go faster and lean further into the curves. And, sometimes church folks don’t get why sometimes their ministers make the decisions they do. Much of the time it’s because of the cargo we carry. It’s simply too priceless to be reckless.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]