The Janitor

Posted: January 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

I had been a Christian for about a year, and now found myself, after spending that time in a Christian drug rehab program, back home in a suburb of Boston. I got involved in a church there that was accepting of the “Jesus movement” types that starting coming to the church. We came, ex druggies and druggies, with long, unkempt hair, dirty and ripped clothes and yet, we were accepted. We, outside the church, listened to music that was radically different than the songs we were hearing in church. Some called it Jesus Rock. The church folks were patient with us.

I back then didn’t understand the challenges that we presented to this group of older, conservative believers. But they saw something happening in church, and they liked what they were seeing. The altar, after the service, would be lined with young people, non-church looking, acting and sometimes bad smelling young people, who were giving their lives to Christ, and filling the churches’ pews.

I learned a lot from the people in that church. I lived about seven miles from the church and not having a car I would hitchhike to church, often arriving early as I didn’t want to be late. Waiting outside, I would see some of the older folks come early and go inside, so one day I followed them and discovered that they were going to a prayer room in the basement, where they would pray for the service, for the pastor and for those that would be attending church. And so, every Sunday I would join them. I learned a lot there.

Interestingly and perhaps you can say something similar, the pastor was wonderful and though I attended the church for several years, I struggle to recall more than a few sermons that he preached. I was a faithful attendee at Sunday School but I can’t seem to remember many of the lessons, even the ones that I taught after I became a Sunday School teacher. Throughout the years I have heard thousands of sermons and preached hundreds myself. And I even struggle to remember more than a handful of sermons that I, myself, have preached.

Clearly preaching and teaching are an essential part of spreading the gospel and of the growth of the believer.  I, though, am saying that we can learn much from those that live seemingly ordinary lives but who touch us in extraordinary ways. Let me give an example.

In the town, nearimages where I was living, there is a Christian liberal art college. We would go there to attend concerts and special church services. I can’t recall the name of the pastor of the on campus church, or the name of the youth pastor, but I do recall the name of one of the college’s janitors. He had left the pastorate to take a job at the college, as a janitor. Some may see that as a step down, as perhaps a failure. But looking at it through a biblical lens, and through the impact that this janitor had on many students, and on those of us that would come around, I’m thinking that it was a significant promotion. This man, who would sweep and mop floors, and who would clean bathrooms and toilets, ministered to us in ways that a sermon couldn’t. He taught us by his actions and then by his words. I have long since lost contact with him, but four decades later I still recall how this janitor showed me Christ, by servant leadership. I believe that there are many serving Christ today that were greatly helped along by this servant leader.

It’s not my intention to trivialize or minimize the rolls of teachers and pastors, but rather to help us see the impact that servant leadership by vocation and calling can have in people’s lives.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:13-16

It’s four decades later, and I haven’t forgotten the man with a mop, that has made a lasting imprint on my life.

John McHoul

  1. Esther Blouch says:

    Thank you, John! I love the humility you bring to light resulting in the Holy Spirit speaking gentle to my heart. (am left wondering if I knew him!)

  2. Stephen Dale Vanderpool says:

    Absolutely encouraging and a challenge to all who desire to serve our Lord and give Him the praise, honor, and glory in the process… Thanks John!

  3. Linda Leonard says:

    You remind me of the godly woman who cleaned our dorm year after year in Washington State. She was a nurse by training; an immigrant from WWII at the invitation of the US government for service rendered in Belgium during the war. Both she and her husband became custodians to support themselves although they had previous professional posts in their home nation. As a Christian she prayed for and counseled many, many undergrads for a period of years. I understand from friends that her husband did the same in a men’s dorm. Thank you for the reminder of fond memories . .. … and for the exhortation to accept those who come through our church doors regardless of their appearance … … …and to pray faithfully for God’s Word and fellowship to bless the lives of those who come.

  4. kathycassel says:

    Thank you for shareing.

  5. Jeff Johnson says:

    Thanks for the reminder to remain humble. This culture we live in in the US rewards the opposite. Much like the folks in Philippi, we are an honor based culture, quite different from Christ.

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