Keeping It Real

Two weeks ago, I boarded a flight from Baltimore to Chicago for a weekend of ministry in Indiana. As I made my way to my seat, I could see in my peripheral vision that the guy sitting on my right was staring at me. I wasn't sure if I had food in my teeth, stains on my shirt or if he thought I looked familiar.

It was a tad awkward, but I fastened my seat belt and reached over to introduce myself. Immediately, his eyes grew wide and he says loud enough for everyone around us to hear, "You are Frank Shelton!" I said, "Yes sir." He said, "I've seen you on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News! I knew you looked familiar but the moment you spoke I knew that was you!" He continued to say, "I have never sat next to a celebrity before!" At that juncture, I smiled and said that I am no celebrity but a servant of the Most High God. I also shared that being faithful is better than being famous.

We had a great conversation and before getting off the plane, we took a picture and exchanged information. He is hoping to bring me to speak at one of their annual outreaches speak in his hometown next spring. It pays to be nice, but it is costly to be a jerk. It was my honor to sit next to him. It was a divine appointment for God to strategically place me next to him out of the 200 seats on the plane.

Last fall, I boarded another plane to the Peach State. After landing in Atlanta, I was picked up to preach at youth rally at the Turner Civic Center, ready to bring the Word. I usually like to get to events a tad early to thank the volunteers and team for their service. Thank God for volunteers because without Him and them nothing can get done!

As I walked in, I was shown their "green room" and I sat down and began to reflect about the road I have traveled with the Lord. My first paid staff position was in 1989 as janitor of First Baptist Church of Waldorf, Md. I was still in school and it was humbling, but it was an honor to clean my home church. I have always said that titles are something, but testimony is everything! While vacuuming the carpet and taking out trash, I remember praying, "Lord if it be your will I would love to travel the country one day to preach your Word, pour into people and give you the glory." The Lord has answered that prayer. Exactly a quarter century since serving as the janitor at church, He has allowed me to do that!

A wise person shared with me years ago, "Frank, if you are too big to do the little things for God than you will be too little to do the big things." Looking back, we find no little things in the Lord's service.

Another nugget of wisdom blessed me, "If you can't serve off the stage than you don't deserve to serve, speak, sing or shine on stage." In many cases, I intentionally try to be the first one to a service and the last to leave. I often stay to fold chairs, help clean up and tear down tables. I am still just the janitor for Jesus and those moments may be more "ministerial" than the message I just preached. These moments help me keep everything in perspective.

With about half an hour to start time, I noticed that I wasn’t pictured on the promotional flyers (not that I needed to be because it’s all about Him), so I thought I’d have some fun being under the radar. God had me walk out of the green room to greet folks that were coming in.

While I was welcoming people to the rally, I noticed another individual approaching as I stretched out my hand to greet him he hesitated to welcome me. He acted as if I were beneath him. Actually, he was about five inches shorter than me!

It turned out that he was a youth pastor at another church. Too often we are so territorial that we are combatting against the eternal. He inquired who I was, what I was doing and what position if any I had in ministry. For a split second, my flesh wanted to let him know that I was the main speaker of the night, but I bit my tongue, stayed in the fruit of the Spirit and smiled, "Sir (although he was younger than me), I am the 'un-official' greeter."

The youth pastor was still not satisfied with my answer and walked away with a snide snarl as if I were just another loser for the Lord. It dawned on me in that brief encounter that dozens of students (many potentially lost without Christ) passed me without being able to extend a smile or handshake to thank them for coming. 

Satan would love for nothing more than for two Christians to get sidetracked on the sidewalk while souls flood by without ever being bathed in the blood of the Lamb. Satan wants us distracted and debating each other rather than throwing a lifeline to those drowning in sin. We need to help rescue the perishing, not get riled up about another's position or theology. It is better to be a Godly example than a poor excuse.

Once back inside with the other ministers and worship leaders, I prayed a silent prayer that God would give that young man peace. I also prayed that God would clear my head, grant me His peace and thanked Him in advance that the Word would not return void. As I walked onto the stage, the lights were so bright that it was almost impossible to see. As Christians we walk by faith and in these larger arenas you also "preach by faith" because it is difficult to see anything. When everything finally came into focus, I saw the youth pastor sitting three rows back in the crowd. I made eye contact with him and could see his eyes popping out of his head, his mouth dropping, his heart skipping and the color of his skin turned pale. Two wrongs will never make a right and God gave me great grace to operate by faith and not in the flesh. Just because we are on stage doesn't mean we are superior. The bigger the platform, the deeper we must grow in humility. Today, I am still that janitor for Jesus and I wasn't offended that the youth pastor didn't know me.

That night, I preached my heart out and when the message was over I extended an invitation. We had souls saved and scores of folks flood the altar vowing to remain sexually pure until marriage with the help of the Holy Spirit. One of the first people I noticed streaming to the altar was the youth pastor! I could tell he was making amends with God, asking for forgiveness and desiring to know Him more. I left the stage and placed my hand on the shoulder of that brother. He looked me in the eye and I told him how proud I was of him, thanked him for his ministry and I could sense he really felt remorseful for his actions earlier. I then placed the microphone in his hand and asked him to and close out on stage in prayer. Some folks just need attention. He couldn't believe it. Thankfully, grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

We must remember that sometimes we need to minister to fellow ministers in the process of ministering to others. We are all human and in need of grace. Jesus didn't love me more as a communicator in a convention center than He did when I was a custodian. How do I know? Just keeping it real. 

Published on by Frank Shelton.