By Anthony Casperson

A great man died earlier this week. His passing wasn’t told on the front pages of any magazines or during any news broadcasts. News stories on digital devices said nothing of this man’s death. His life probably won’t be memorialized in biographical works. But greatness has very little to do with celebrity.

Pastor Sid Miller (the only man I’ve ever deemed worthy of calling “Pastor” as if it were his first name) was the pastor of the church in which I grew up. But to me, he was more than just the guy to whom I listened every Sunday while he spoke from the pulpit.

Though Pastor and I didn’t have many similar interests other than the proper teaching of the word of God (which, for my part, largely came about because of him), he was my mentor. This man of God not only taught me much of how to be a pastor, but how to be a follower of Jesus.

Pastor taught me to love the truth of God. He loved to memorize large chunks of the bible. You could often see him walking with a little bible in his hand, quoting whole books of the New Testament to himself. And the bible flowed through his preaching, never speaking a truth of the bible without a verse backing up his comment.

But that is not what made him great.

He taught me how to preach. During my high school years, Pastor would meet with me on many Sunday afternoons to help me prepare for a yearly preaching competition. I can tell you right now, as a person who has preached often enough, that one of the last things a person who just finished preaching would want to do is help someone else work on a sermon. Taking a nap sounds much nicer.

But he would help me see what the passage was saying, and then unleash the words through my personality. Using his love of grammar, he’d correct my writing. (I have a thing about sentence fragments, as you can still see in my writings.) Vocal inflections and hand gestures were foreign things to me. But he took the time to make me think about them. Much of my preaching is a result of being under his tutelage.

But that is not what made him great.

He was an evangelist. You couldn’t stop him from sharing the love of God to those who needed to hear it. Countless people became followers of Jesus because of God’s work through Pastor. I even came to learn during my time in seminary that he printed out spiritual birth certificates for the people he’d led to Jesus.

And many whose lives he touched went on to make a difference in other people’s lives. Many entered full-time ministry positions all around the world because of him. But even more went on: to share the gospel with others; to teach; to carry on the love of memorizing scripture; and so many other things.

But that is not what made him great.

What made Pastor Miller great was the way he loved like Jesus. I’ve written before about how I struggle with issues of acceptance. But Pastor was one of the few people for whom I NEVER held a doubt that he cared about me.

He would purposefully direct those walks through Walmart to be in the areas that I worked. He’d put the little bible down, give me a hug, and talk with me for a few minutes. Those Sunday afternoons spent teaching me to preach took place during a time in my life when I truly wondered if anyone cared. And he proved over and over again that he did.

Every graduation, he celebrated with me. Every hospitalization, he visited me. There’s hardly a momentous occasion in my life that his care for me wasn’t present.

He was my mentor. My pastor. My teacher. My wise council. My confidant. My friend. My cheerleader. My fellow worker in the gospel of Jesus. And my brother in Christ. (I told you about those sentence fragments.)

He made me feel special. But the great thing is that I’m not alone.

Person after person could tell story after story of how he showed God-like love to them. If everyone at his memorial service this afternoon had the opportunity to share how Pastor Miler showed them the love of Jesus, we could all be there for over a week…and still not run out of stories to tell.

Some people might think that statement an exaggeration, a hyperbole for dramatic effect. But for those of us who owe much of our spiritual lives to the humble love of God that flowed through him, we know the truth.

Pastor Miller was a great man. Not because of what he did. Not because of how many people knew him. He was great because he loved and served like Jesus. In the gospels, Jesus says, “If you want to be great, you must become the least and the servant of all.”

Pastor lived out that kind of greatness. I hope to one day be half as great a man as he was. And this is a call to all of us to humble ourselves and love as Jesus did.

True greatness will outlive us. It’ll even outlive our memory. Because true greatness is glory given to God. And that is eternal.

Pastor Sid Miller