Finding God in a shack

"Once we realize the love that God gives each one of us, we see our neighbors a little differently."

John Shaver
  • John Shaver

San Dieguito United Methodist Church

170 Calle Magdalena, Encinitas

Membership: 750

Pastor: John Shaver

Age: 47

Born: Dayton, OH

Formation: North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, PA; Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.; University of Pittsburgh

Years Ordained: 19

San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

Pastor John Shaver: In Matthew 22, it talks about loving God and loving your neighbor, building bridges in this world. Once we realize the love that God gives each one of us, we see our neighbors a little differently. In this world there are a lot of places we can build bridges and, once people realize there is that grace and love that God gives us, there’s so much that we can do together.

SDR: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?

PS: My main mission in the world is to make sure all children and adults are physically, spiritually and psychologically fed. I had a professor in seminary who often asked, “What is the most important thing—helping people with food or by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ?” The answer is both. You don’t do one or the other but both together.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PS: I was never planning to do this. My grandfather and father are Methodist ministers. It’s a holy family business. I had planned to go to law school and was working for a district attorney. The turning point came when I was working on a juvenile case, and I saw a juvenile being put in an adult facility. At that point I heard God say in my heart that he wanted me to be at the starting point in a child’s life and to nurture each child along the way.

Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Duccio

Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Duccio

SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?

PS: One time I was working down in Nicaragua; I was praying and I asked God what we should do next. Then I had this guy come up to me and say that he needed me to meet the neighbors across the street. I started talking to them and asked them what they needed, not making any promises. They said they needed running water. The following week we were going to be talking about Jesus and Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-29). At that point I felt that God was right there with me, telling me to do something to keep these folks in the physical water as well as the living water that Christ talks about with the Samaritan woman at the well. So the strangest place I found God was in a little shack in Nicaragua, talking to a family about water.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PS: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I think that part of the Lord’s Prayer means heaven is a place where God’s will is done, and everyone loves God and neighbor perfectly. My role is to continue to point people toward heaven and I hope that’s enough. When it comes to hell, there’s the passage in Matthew 25 of the sheep and the goats. But I would say that God is the judge and I have to lay a lot of the greatness in God’s hands. I heard a pastor once say that we have too many churches that focus on heaven, but we need to focus on hell. But my job is to help focus people on heaven.

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