It is a tragedy anytime someone has to eulogize their friend. But that is exactly what has happened. My friend, Christopher Shepherd, died late last week of cardiac arrest. Chris was 37 years old. I spoke at his memorial service on Tuesday. Although it was good see old friends, it was a tragedy all the same.
I know Chris would never had seen it this way, but his influence went farther than he would have ever dreamed. I will miss him.
Several have asked for my remarks. Here is the text of what I prepared….
Good morning. My name is Douglas Leslie and Christopher Shepherd was my friend.
But Chris was more than that to me. To me Chris was a big brother. Time and time again Chris showed himself to be true. When I was an insecure teenager, it was Chris who knelt with me, along with Keith Gregerson, on a very cold night in the middle of Iowa, where I gave my life to the rule of Jesus. When I was filled with the Holy Spirit two weeks later in the basement of a friend’s home, it was Chris who was there praying with me. To be honest I think Chris pressured me into that decision. But that was Chris’ way. His passion often preceded his wisdom or patience. That is what made Chris, Chris.
For Chris though, there was no other way. Passion for Jesus regardless of the cost was the only life worth living in his mind. Chris had an insatiable passion to see people give their lives to Jesus and he wanted you to share in that passion even if you didn’t necessarily want to. I remember when I was barely a month old in the Lord Chris just had to go street witnessing. And that meant I was going with him.
(TELL DODGE ROAD EXPERIENCE)
But that was only one of the many occasions we had the opportunity to share Jesus with someone he had met along the way. Whether it was a bunch of kids in a car on the weekend or a homeless person that Chris sought out downtown, he always had a story to tell and an immediate way of asking someone where they stood with Jesus. And if you know Chris that just means most of the time it wasn’t so subtle. It went something like, “Do you know Jesus? Do you know without giving your life to Jesus you will go to hell?” – or at least something along those lines. For Chris it didn’t matter. He would gladly take a punch for Jesus. And sometimes he did.
In so many ways Chris exemplified for me in those early years what Jesus was like. Selfless. Courageous. Incredibly forgiving. – Not so humble. When he felt he heard the Lord’s voice he acted. After often times putting aside counsel from whom he sought it, he acted. To Chris there was no other choice. I remember driving him to the KC airport with Ted Vierk in 1989 when Chris knew he was to give his life in Costa Rica only to be back in Omaha with his tail tucked between his legs a few months later. Was that a painful time in his life? Yes. But it is that kind of passion and sold out obedience that changes the world. And Chris wanted to change his world. And for Chris there was no sacrifice too great if it helped speed the process. For Chris his life can be summed up with Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24-27.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever looses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”
John Piper writes in his newest book What Jesus Demands from the World,
“If you follow Jesus only because he makes life easy now, it will look to the world as though you really love what they love, and Jesus just happens to provide it for you. But if you suffer with Jesus in the pathway of love because he is your supreme treasure, then it will be apparent to the world that your heart is set on a different fortune than theirs. This is why Jesus demands that we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.”
It was Chris Shepherd’s influence, along with others, that quickened my increasing passion for outreach and missions. It of course has developed over these last 20 years, but Chris was one of those faithful that not only gave the spark but lived it in front of me so I could watch it happen – as dysfunctional as it may have been. Aren’t we all glad that Jesus can take the dysfunctional and make it functional again!!?
In closing I remember a particular watershed mark in Chris’ life that I want to share with you. In 1988 we attended together an event called Awakening ’88 – that many here today will remember. Chris and I bunked together and would stay up to wee hours of the morning talking about what the Lord was showing us. The first night Chris was fired up and explained to me how he had been praying and asking to the Lord for forgiveness for something he had done. During that conversation he looked be straight in the eyes and said, “Doug I was telling the Lord how sorry I was for what I had done and the Lord said to me, ‘I don’t want apologies, I want repentance!’” That was a seminal point in Chris’ life. Never again did I hear words so pure come from his mouth. He believed it in the core of his soul. And it fueled his passion to see others come to know this wonderful life in Jesus.
In these last years Chris made a truckload of mistakes. But through all of our conversations that took place both before and after I moved away, not once did I hear him pass the blame. He always knew much of his dilemmas were the result of choices. Repentence cleanses the soul. He struggled with relationships. He struggled with living with his own choices. He struggled with reconciling his choices with his true heart for peace, reconciliation and wholeness. But I can tell you this, Chris was deeply in love with Jesus. And even to his last day that love was still contagious. And it is this contagious passion that should be remembered.
This is his legacy! Remember him and honor him for who he was – at his core. Remember him as a lover of God!
I LOVE YOU CHRISTOPHER. I AM SO GLAD YOU FINALLY GET TO SIT WITH THE ONE YOU LOVES SO VERY MUCH. AND WHEN YOU SING AND WHEN YOU DANCE, KNOW THAT WE ARE DANCING WITH YOU.