One of the parts of my job that God has to continue to remind me that I love is that of shepherd. Being amongst the sheep, walking through life, listening to their hearts are all things that I enjoy doing the most. The problem is that I don’t spend nearly enough time doing it. I get caught up in sermon prep, meeting agendas, budgeting, vision casting, and almost anything else that comes through the door. What I don’t spend enough of my time doing is loving on my people.
Calvin Miller has written a book called “O Shepherd Where Art Thou.” It is done in story format and talks about the struggles of a Pastor who pastors a medium sized church. He is really good at shepherding his people but he struggles with the success factor, he feels his church should be bigger. Interwoven in the story is the relationship he has with two other pastors, one from a mega-church and the other from a Mainline denomination. Through their lunches together the main pastors problem is exacerbated even more. The mega-church pastor is all about appearances and speaking in catch phrases. He is always pounding the main pastor about vision and growth. The Mainline pastor is all about meditation and tradition, and is on the pastor about rejecting anything to do with growth. As the story progresses the main pastor comes to grips with how God has gifted him. He learns how to be comfortable in his role and not beat himself up over lacking in other areas.
This book really convicted me because I am a pastor at heart. I have beaten myself up for not being a dynamic enough leader or a deep enough teacher. The fact is I love going on pastor’s calls and praying for people. Although counseling isn’t my forte I enjoy when people come into my office for biblical advice. I wish my people let me do it more. If I could choose anything it would to be amongst the people of my church. The fact is that I am a recovering guilt addict. I was always feeling guilty for not spending enough time studying, not having a big enough vision, or being driven enough. What I need to remind myself is that God has equipped with a shepherds heart.
In reality the role of shepherd is diminishing in churches. With churches emphasizing leadership, getting out into the community, and a whole host of other activities our people are starting to be left behind. Just the other day I was reading a blog from a pastor about being relevant. He said pastors become irrelevant if they all they have is Christian friends, don’t do ministry in the community, and don’t mow their neighbors lawn. If that is what it takes to be relevant then I am okay with being irrelevant. God called me to my church to minister to the people first and foremost.
I really feel that some pastors need to reconsider their calling if they bristle at the thought of having deal with the people in their church. If you would rather be around non-Christians than the people in your church then go work for a non-profit. Don’t get me wrong outreach, teaching, and discipleship are important, and I spend most of my time on those, but they can be a lot easier than having to sit in the living room of a family who have just lost a loved one.
There isn’t a formula to better shepherd your people. Heck you can’t even schedule it. Last week I had ten counseling appointments and most of them were at the crisis stage. It left me on Saturday evening, after a city-wide outreach we had been planning for five months, finishing my message for Sunday. These are the moments that teach you the sufficiency of Christ. Please don’t take this as me pounding you if you aren’t strong in the area of shepherding. Work in your strengths and let God be strong in where you are weak. If you are strong in shepherding don’t beat yourself up for it and don’t let the guilt overwhelm you when you struggle in other areas. Go and minister to your people they need and most of all will thank you for it.