Some of my favourite and most difficult descriptions of pastoral ministry come from the 20 th chapter of Acts and Paul’s farewell handle to the Ephesian elders. Right here Paul the planter and pastor is bidding a closing farewell to the elders at a church he loves. And in verse 28 he involves what I consider is his description of the guts of pastoral ministry. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
Paul tells us right here concerning the pastor’s calling, and as he does that, he turns to the metaphor of sheep and shepherds. The pastor is an overseer or shepherd who cares for a flock. On the coronary heart of ministry is that this: the pastor is a shepherd known as to have a tendency sheep. However it’s vital for the pastor to recollect—not simply as soon as, however time and again—that the sheep are usually not his. He’s merely an under-shepherd who labors on behalf of the Head Shepherd. This flock—these sheep—don’t belong to the pastor. They don’t exist for the pastor. They belong to God and exist for God. The pastor is to are inclined to them, to take care of them, on behalf of God. Nevertheless else a pastor pertains to his sheep, and no matter else he does for the sheep, he should first take care of them.
However here’s what I’ve been pondering over the previous few weeks and even months: The temptation amongst pastors to use the sheep as a substitute of have a tendency the sheep. As I journey far and broad, I encounter church buildings that appear to be carrying out exceptional issues, or no less than that intend to perform exceptional issues. Lots of them have set a few of these notorious BHAGs—massive, bushy, audacious objectives. They’ve determined they wish to plant 1,000 church buildings, they wish to develop to 10,000 members, they wish to ship a missionary to each nation on earth.
There’s usually a lot to admire right here. Our church buildings are vulnerable to develop apathetic and that apathy can usually be addressed by ambition. In the meantime, we all know that the time is brief and the mission is pressing, so there may be good cause to press arduous.
However generally I’ve needed to surprise: Is it actually the church that’s formidable, or is it the pastor? Some folks have large ambition and so as to obtain such ambition they want assets. The useful resource most on the disposal of the pastor is folks—the individuals who attend their church buildings. And so I see this temptation for a pastor to make use of folks because the useful resource or the uncooked materials by means of which he can obtain his personal ambitions.
The pastor’s ambitions could also be excellent and really noble. These ambitions might mobilize folks to grow to be a part of his flock and to affix in his mission. However it strikes me that the guts of the pastor’s calling, no less than as Paul describes it, just isn’t mobilizing folks or deploying folks, however caring for them. My pal Peter factors out that within the palms of pushed and bold pastors, folks can come to be seen as beasts of burden to be pushed greater than sheep to be tended. Every individual added to a church just isn’t one other treasured sheep to be cared for, however one other useful resource to be deployed.
I do know the human coronary heart properly sufficient to comprehend it’s doable for a pastor to idiot himself into pondering he’s caring for the sheep by deploying the sheep. And I do know full properly that some sheep are completely properly cared for and wanting to be put to work in attaining some nice aim. However nonetheless I feel it behooves each pastor to ask: Is it doable that these grand objectives are literally only a means by means of which I really feel validated? Am I actually caring for God’s sheep, or am I utilizing them as a useful resource in a sort of quest for self-fulfillment? Am I actually doing what’s proper within the eyes of God or am I doing what makes me look good within the eyes of my friends?
God calls each pastor to take care of God’s sheep. No matter else a pastor does, he can by no means compromise that core mission. There’s a place for formidable objectives, I’m certain, however they need to come after the sheep have been correctly cared for, not earlier than. If a church has massive, bushy, audacious objectives for reaching the neighborhood or saving the world, however the folks within the church don’t know the pastors and aren’t recognized by the pastors, that church could also be doing one thing very improper. If the church’s ardour is much less about caring for the sheep than placing the sheep to work, one thing has gone improper. No matter else a church does, nevertheless else a pastor leads, it must not ever be carried out on the expense of the core calling of caring for God’s treasured, blood-bought sheep.