COURT HOUSE - “He’s one of these earthquakes you don’t feel.”
“He recognized you had to break the mold to reach people.”
“He possesses a rare combination of talents and identifies with people because he possesses interests which are common to many people.”
“He’s a seven-day-a-week guy.”
“It was refreshing to me to see somebody who could preach the Word of God, yet has the same issues that everyone else is dealing with.”
These are the words local community members used recently to describe Senior Pastor Rudy Sheptock Jr., who is leaving The Lighthouse Church, in Court House, after 24 years.
Sheptock was 37 when he came to the area from Omaha, Nebraska. Now, at 61, he explained needing to readjust his responsibilities because he is battling prostate cancer, and his high blood pressure “is a very real threat.”
Sheptock, who wrote a weekly column for the Herald throughout his tenure, described being The Lighthouse Church’s lead minister as “some of the most gratifying, exciting, adventurous, and yet at times extremely difficult years of my life. Through it all, God’s faithfulness has been the common denominator in the midst of the good, bad and ugly.”
“It was clear to the Lighthouse board of elders that Pastor Rudy was energetic and passionate about sharing with the community the power which Christ gives to His followers,” recalled Herald Publisher Art Hall, who was part of the initial committee interviewing Sheptock for the church, in an email. “We could not have known the extreme abundance of energy and passion which Pastor Rudy would bring to his God-given assignment. He has been a blessing beyond imagining.”
Hall said Sheptock “possesses a rare combination of talents. People can identify with him because he possesses interests that are common to so many people. He loves sports and he loves music, and constantly brings his common touch into the messages he delivers from the pulpit.
“He is prolific, and he is quick,” Hall continued. “I am told by church staff members that he could sit down and write his column for the Herald in 30 or 40 minutes.
“He has a free-flowing mind, combined with his knowledge of the love of music, making him a natural as a radio announcer,” Hall added. "Combining these talents with his love of Jesus Christ enabled The Lighthouse Church to grow to a powerful force in Cape May County in a short number of years. Cape May County is a better place, and the people of Cape May County are better people because of Pastor Sheptock.”
One member of the church's Board of Ministries, Bob Jackson, of Del Haven, said Sheptock brought a lot of inspiration to the community because of his “gift of preaching and still being a real person."
“I just love the man,” Jackson said. “It is refreshing to me to see somebody who could preach the Word of God the way that Rudy did, yet still be dealing with issues like hay fever and cancer, like everyone else. He is a seven-day-a-week guy. You don’t see this a lot; it’s not the norm.”
Will Morey, of Wildwood Crest, described Sheptock as “one of these earthquakes you don’t feel.” He said Sheptock has been “unconventional and traditional” at the same time, inviting “interesting speakers from interesting walks of life to come to church, making music ministries happen and touching lives via counseling, mentoring, and interacting with people.
“He has a real heart for the Wildwood Boardwalk and spent a lot of time interacting there with people,” continued Morey, who is president and chief executive officer of Morey’s Piers. Although not an official member of The Lighthouse Church, Morey said he and his wife have attended it for years.
During the A Closer Walk event, a Christian youth event held in Wildwoodand at the Piers, Morey said Sheptock used “non-traditional methods grounded in tradition to reach the youth. He realized you had to break the mold to reach people. The sunrise ceremony on the beach, the baptisms in the ocean, it was all amazing to see the depth of responsibility Rudy has.
"People don’t always have that, but his product was people’s lives. Through his work with people, he touched the lives of generations through their children and families. His return on investment (ROI) was off the charts.”
Morey said Sheptock would often tell him his father would say, “Show them Jesus, Rudy. He showed us on a regular basis and made it clear, it wasn’t him, but here is what he is, with all his shortcomings and what he is about,” Morey said.
“When you touch people’s lives the way he has, how he has changed people’s lives beyond what anyone imagines, it’s a beautiful thing,” he added.
Jackson noted people should not be “sad that he is leaving, but have hope that we can pick up what Rudy has given us and let it bloom. His real legacy is will the church pick up and grow after he leaves, or will people sit back and say ‘woe is me’ because he is leaving? We should be happy we’ve had him for as long as we did.”
Sheptock said he is moving to western Pennsylvania and will be spending more time with his family.
To contact Karen Knight, email email@example.com.