Writing about what I do as a pastoral leader is like showing people how sausage is made. I lot of folks like sausage, but most don’t want to see the strange process with their own eyes. Pastoring can often be messy, hard to define, and, because it deals with matters of the soul, as well as the “Man Upstairs,” it is somewhat of a, well…MYSTERY.
I love how the late Ron Mehl put it: “When people come to our church, we want them to feel comfortable and simply connect with Jesus. They don’t need to see all the processes and machinery. We keep all that ‘under the carpet,’ but make no mistake, we do have a lot of machinery under the carpet.”
The intent of this particular blog post isn’t to go headlong into all the ‘machinery’ (i.e. administration, processes, etc), but rather to give an overview of the pastoral craft, especially to those that are just starting out in your ministry calling.
What do pastor/shepherds do? Using the metaphor of a shepherd and his/her sheep, the following three concepts serve as a construct for our calling.
A shepherd gets the sheep to good pasture. The calling of a pastor is to guide, instruct, point, steer, nudge and encourage the congregation towards Godliness. Note something important: we guide, but we don’t drive. Guiding involves speaking truth in love. Driving is a subtle form of brutality.
It’s also important to note that guiding sheep to good pasture is not a “one-size-fits-all” venture. It take creativity, and a unique approach with each of the sheep. Like various children within one particular family, a parent quickly realizes that not all the children can be guided in the exact same way. Therefore, pray and get a sense of leading from the Holy Spirit as you give leadership and guidance to those under your care.
The goal is to lead our people to Jesus. Not to ourselves, or to our organization. Lovingly guide them to Jesus.
A shepherd provides the sheep with good food. This is an interesting aspect of our calling, especially in our modern culture in which so many folks decry “I’m just not getting fed at my church.” Now, to be fair, that may very well be the case in some churches. But, by and large, my belief is that most pastoral teachers are providing good food (the teaching of God’s Word), but our sheep are choosing to not eat. They don’t have an appetite. They’ve gotten full on the junk food of the world. To them I would say: “Good food is being provided. Eat up.”
One of the primary roles of a pastor is to provide sheep with solid and sustaining instruction and direction from the Scriptures. We get them to places where they can graze on truth and life. Not all will…but keep trying. Some will want you to spoon-fed them. Don’t do it. Others may want you to say what they want to hear in order to feel good about their poor decisions. Don’t do it. Still others may press you to address every wind of doctrine or hot topic. Don’t do it.
Preach the Word. Unpack the text in context. Lay out a Bible Buffet of clear and applicable instruction and allow the sheep to graze.
The goal is to lead our people to Jesus, who is the Word made flesh.
A shepherd protects the sheep from predators. Those predators may be actual people with evil or disturbing intent. Or it may be a point of confusion, false teaching, gossip, relational unrest, or the like. These are wolves, and many are hiding out in sheepclothing.
Make no mistake, the enemy of our soul comes to steal, kill and destroy, and his plans are often partnered with by seemingly well-intentioned folks in our faith communities. One of the roles of a pastor is to guard and protect. This is not permission to witch-hunt, police people, or demand unequivocal allegiance to our leadership. Rather, with discernment, prayer, kindness and care we cover the flock with a spiritual ‘umbrella’ of protection, often unseen nor obvious. Occasionally, shepherds need to make their presence known and felt though a timing word, clear rebuke, or training in righteousness.
The goal is that people would have all obstacles removed for them to get to Jesus. He is the Great Shepherd. We are his under-shepherds. We want people to get to HIM, and anything or anyone that attempts to thwart that need to be gracefully, prayerfully and lovingly dealt with. May God give you wisdom should that be necessary.
Is this all there is to pastoring? No way. Remember how Ron Mehl said “there’s a lot of machinery under the carpet?” There’s so much more to the pastoral craft. This is only one slice from one person’s perspective. May you continue to discover all that God has created YOU to be and what He has called YOU to do! Blessings.