St. Andrew's Pastor 'Privileged' to Be in Presence of God
David Shelor calls himself a slacking gym rat with an unusual sense of humor.
Patch: Please tell me about your religious background. How did you come to head this church? And at what age did you receive your calling?
Shelor: I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor, his uncle, his grandfather, his great-grandfather. It keeps going back from there. It’s the family business, I guess. I came through school as a math and science person. My college major was physics, so I worked for a few years as an engineer after I graduated. I decided the money I was making wasn’t enough to pay for my soul, so I quit and went to theological seminary. I served a church in Georgia for seven years before deciding to come to Tampa 10 years ago to start St. Andrew. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay (like our local diocese, conference or association) was looking for someone to plant a new church here. It sounded like a crazy thing to do, so I applied.
At what age did I receive my calling? For me, I’m still receiving it. It’s a daily journey. Some days are clearer than others. Last Thursday and the Monday before that were pretty clear. Yesterday? Maybe not so much. I just try to keep walking.
Patch: Tell me about the membership of your church: number of members, which neighborhoods they are from, etc.
Shelor: This is always an interesting question to me, as if size equals success —bigger is better. For us, the answer is about 130 in worship on an average Sunday, mostly from New Tampa, but coming everywhere from Zephyrhills to Town 'N Country. Of course, Jesus was so successful, he only had 12 men and a handful of women in his congregation, and all the men eventually left in the end. Thank goodness the women stuck around! By that measure, we must not be very successful, because new people keep showing up and sticking around. When they do, we try to make them feel welcome and point them toward God.
Patch: Can you describe your most inspirational experience at your church?
Shelor: Last Sunday, a preschooler ran up and hugged me and showed me the picture she drew of her and Jesus. The Sunday before that, a woman whose marriage is ending came up to me after worship and I prayed with her. That kind of stuff happens all the time. Each time it does, I know I am privileged to be in the presence of God.
Patch: What is the most difficult part of heading a church?
Shelor: I was at a cocktail party one time. I met a woman and told her what I did for a living. Immediately she said, “You know, it’s not that I don’t believe in God. I do. It’s just that I don’t think about it very much.” She then went on to talk about her new Cole Hahn shoes for 15 minutes. New Tampa is full of people like her. That’s the challenge. Don’t get me wrong. I love Cole Hahn shoes. I own three pairs right now. But wearing them isn’t quite a spiritual experience. It’s close, though.
Patch: How do you unwind?
Shelor: I am a gym rat, although I’ve been a slacker for months now. I need to get back. Thanks for reminding me. Now I feel guilty.
I also try to pray everyday for 30 minutes, but Jesus makes me pray for people I don’t like, so it’s not very relaxing. I have a weekly appointment with a massage therapist to make up for it.
Patch: What is one thing about you that would surprise people?
Shelor: I have an “unusual” sense of humor. If you want to avoid lightning strikes, don’t stand next to me.
Patch: How many times do you think you have read the Bible?
Shelor: All the way through? Never. Truthfully, I always get bored with all those chapters of who begat whom. I do try to read some everyday, though. I always learn something about myself when I do.
Patch: What do you like most about New Tampa?
Shelor: Bruce B Downs — It keeps people mentioning God.
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