Pastor as Shepherd

There is no more fundamental description of what the role of a pastor should be than the role of a shepherd. There was a season of life where I was only reading leadership books. They have great advice and fantastic insight they can help you be a better leader which we should all strive to be. The fundamental flaw in being a pastor who strives to be a CEO versus a pastor as a shepherd is the focus of what you do and the motivations behind what you do.

A CEO is driven by the need for efficiency and measurable outcomes. They make the mistake of being efficient with people so you can be effective in ministry. This is where we make our fatal flaw as ministers we think that we are judged by some elusive bottom line, and in the frenetic pace of ministry we kill ourselves trying to make it across some finish line we have set up for ourselves, but we never end up crossing. We burn up and burn out because we become disillusioned with the pace and the culture of pastoral ministry.

You Are an Undershepherd, Not an Owner.

We live in a very entrepreneurial culture. If you build it, they will come. The dream you have can be realized, you can be a self-made man. While all these things are true to a point as a pastor, you will never be satisfied with your work if these are the ideas you have about pastoral ministry. As a pastor, you are more of an undershepherd than even a Shepherd. We are stewards, not owners. A steward recognizes that he doesn’t set his goals or achieve his outcomes. A steward’s job description is to take care of and grow his flock for the person whom he works. When we are the owner we tend to obsess over outcomes rather than the hard work of planting, loving and trusting. When we see ourselves as the owner we are shaken when things happen that we can’t understand. As a CEO we don’t think anything as above our paygrade, as an undershepherd, we have a greater capacity for mystery because in ministry there are many things that don’t make sense.

You Are Called to Faithfulness, Not Effectiveness

Shepherding sheep is boring sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating. A CEO measures his time and only does the things he is good at or enjoys doing. We have grown a church culture that is so specialized in their roles that we are insulated from other hurting us or getting caught up in things that don’t “maximize our effectiveness” that we are never with the people God has called us to lead. Pastoral ministry is counter-intuitive because we are not building a factor with widgets we are building a Kingdom whose foundation and architect is God. A CEO would never leave 99 sheep to go after one sheep. He would write the one sheep off as the cost of doing business. He would minimize risk, but shepherding sheep is a risky business because sheep need leading and the enemies are pervasive and persistent. Pastor ministry is a perpetual wound. In loving people you expose yourself to hurts greater than you could ever imagine, yet loving people is the primary means God uses to bring his lost sheep home. The temptation when wounded is to strike at those who wounded you so it doesn’t happen again. Our true Shepherd took the lashes that should have been ours to redeem his enemies and make them his sons.

A Shepherd is Incarnational

Pastor don’t just do things you are good at because you will subtly believe that you are more gifted and talented than you actually are. Frustrations in life and ministry are part of your ministry in the fellowship of sufferings. Think about Christ what limitations did he willing take on to live incarnational life. The most difficult part of pastoral ministry is when people you have given your life to walk away or turn on you.  The temptation is to quit or become cynical. The challenge is to live internationally and suffer with and not just because of those you lead. Ajith Fernando in his book Jesus Driven Ministry says that frustration and pain are essential aspects of incarnational ministry.

“A pastor rejoices in the sufferings he endures as a servant of the people. He even thinks that his sufferings are essential for completing his union with the crucified Christ.”

Fernando, Ajith

It is in our sufferings and in identifying with the sufferings of those we lead that Christ is seen most clearly in us. CEOs mitigate pain and limit damage, undershepherd endures suffering and embrace difficulty because it completes our union with Christ.

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