I more or less stumbled into a church some years ago that was being led by such a man. He didn’t blow fire and brimstone from behind a marble pulpit. He wept with passion on a threadbare stage as he told of the love of Christ that had rescued him from the deep. He didn’t wear expensive suits and or pay heed to important people. He wore jeans (and an occasional kilt) and decided that the most important people were the ones who sat in the seats on Sunday morning, regardless of their power in the community or their ability to write a check that didn’t bounce.
The older I get, the more thankful I become that God has placed him in my life.
I have cried with him in his office as I told him that I didn’t know why, but I knew I needed to be in Africa. He suggested I go live with a pot-bellied white African named Willie.
I cried with him as he and I watched my bride come down the aisle. He would pronounce us husband and wife, shortly before my new bride would fall down the steps 8 seconds into our marriage. “First step’s a doozie,” he said.
I sat with him in his office as he picked Stefani up off the floor of despondency, counseling and loving her into a place of forgiveness and understanding when a relationship of hers was all but over. My eyes were quietly opened that day to the power of unbiased grace.
I sat on the stage of his church one Sunday morning after he challenged the church to write dreams on balloons and let them go, symbolically floating to God above. I could hardly speak that morning. My balloon said that I knew I wasn’t done in Africa. Not too many months later, he would put his hands on me and pray that both Stefani and I would be powerful tools of the Almighty in a dark and dangerous Johannesburg.
From Africa, I would cherish the chance to get onto the internet to listen to his sermons, not so much for the teaching (though it was good) but more for the wild-eyed passion that would come through in a voice that was 10,000 miles away. I would later cherish an email I got from him in Africa in which he humbly restored an emotional canyon that a simple misunderstanding had created in me.
And recently, home and settling and without a ministry to call my own, he is again my counselor and friend. He calmly listens and quietly assures. “There is a place for you,” his eyes seem to say.
This man receives more credit than he probably wants, but much less than he deserves. He is the idealist that has learned to live in reality, but never in step with it. He is the father that unapologetically raises his kids to champion mercy and grace and service over all else that the world might teach them. He is the husband whose wife still blushes when she talks about him. He is the pastor who, when he fails, fails with a beautifully humble apology. He is the leader who, when he succeeds, gives all credit away and watches as eternity is forever changed.
Jeff Harris celebrated a birthday recently. And I don’t know how many people noticed that he’s been serving us another whole year. I noticed. And I wanted to tell him thanks as obnoxiously as possible. More importantly, I wanted to give him a gift that could never get old. So, please help me give him that gift.
If you know Pastor Jeff…if he’s touched your life anything like he has mine…I want to encourage you to write him an email. firstname.lastname@example.org He’s a sucker for great stories. Tell him how he’s impacted your story. Tell him, whether big or small, the difference he’s made in your life. I pray we’re able to overwhelm him by pouring the grace and joy he has given us back onto him.
I pray he might he the echoes from above that I know are already waiting for him:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Love you, Jeff...