The Bishop of Peachtree City

Father David Epps's picture

The Reverend John Weber will preach his last sermon as the senior pastor of Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church this coming Sunday morning. After 34 years of serving as the only senior pastor the church has known, John is retiring.

When John Weber came to Peachtree City, there was no Lutheran congregation; in fact, there very few congregations of any denomination in the city.

Pastor Weber planted a church the old-fashioned way — by knocking on doors, visiting homes, and inviting people to come to church. Today, Christ Our Shepherd consists of some 1,700 people and is one of the largest churches in Fayette County.

In the Bible, the word “bishop” can also be translated “overseer.” Certainly, Pastor Weber has overseen the tremendous growth in his people and at the church he founded.

But John has also overseen and helped to influence much outside the walls of his congregation. One of these areas has been in the development of relationships with pastors of diverse backgrounds and theological persuasions.

In the past, the pastors of Peachtree City and in much of the surrounding area have enjoyed a peaceful and fruitful relationship. Much of this is due to John’s influence.

When I first arrived on the scene, John called and invited me to attend a breakfast with other clergy. I would discover that he was almost always the one who reached out to the “new guys” and welcomed them aboard.

The highly successful Good Friday services, which involve at least eight of the area’s churches each year, is a product of the relationships forged at the breakfast tables throughout the years. Pastor Bob Tyler and Dr. George Dillard have been the driving forces putting the services together throughout the gathering’s history, but, in the beginning, there was John calling, encouraging, and even mentoring.

Although he may not be aware of it, I am a product of John’s quiet mentoring. When I first came to the area, I was 32 years old. I quickly learned to respect John, trust him, and, on occasion, rely on him for feedback, advice, and counsel.

When I had to select a mentor for my admission as a candidate for the College of Fellows of the Academy of Parish Clergy, I chose John. His insight changed the way I viewed my own strengths and weakness in my pastoral ministry.

When, over two decades ago, our church burned, John was there on Saturday at 2 a.m., helping me through the night at the smoldering scene and, for nine months, we met in the sanctuary of Christ Our Shepherd on Sunday evenings. During those days, we also had both funerals and weddings at COS.

Later, when I became the founding pastor of a mission congregation, John Weber was there encouraging, assisting, and providing emotional and spiritual support. John again opened the door to Christ Our Shepherd and, again, we had several weddings and even ordinations in the COS facility until we had our own building.

Last November, when I was consecrated a bishop in my denomination, the service occurred at Christ Our Shepherd. Not once in all those years would John allow us to pay rent or a user’s fee.

My guess is that I am not the only local pastor who has benefited and has been influenced by John’s warm heart, his wise counsel, his servant’s spirit, and his moral example. Bruce Hebel, lead pastor of Tyrone’s Re Gen Fellowship, recently described John as a man of “impeccable integrity.” For all of his 34 years in the area, John has been what a pastor should be.

For the last several years, John Weber has truly been the unofficial Bishop of Peachtree City. I owe him more than I can express and I am grateful that he is choosing to retire here and is not moving away.

Christ Our Shepherd may be losing their senior pastor, but there are those of us who will continue to rely on the wisdom and friendship of the Bishop of Peachtree City.

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