Yesterday I was outside doing some work around my home. I was moving some large rocks off of a hill so that we could line our driveway entrance with them. Most of the rocks were too big and too heavy to pick up with one hand.
It made me think of our leadership responsibility as pastors. The load we carries takes two hands. In one hand we carry a sense of sacred responsibility. What we do as pastors is weighty. It is serious and it matters. We have been entrusted with a precious congregation that God loves. We have been given a Great Commission that impacts eternity. That is sobering.
In the other hand we carry a sense of joy and adventure and honor. Ministry is a “get to”, not a “have to”. There is no higher honor than to be called to pastor the bride of Christ. We have the incredible joy of watching people’s lives get transformed by the gospel.
It really does take holding both realities in tandem that keeps us healthy in ministry. So, how can you do such a weighty thing and yet not lose the sense of adventure and joy? Let me ask it another way. How do you not let the burden of ministry rob you of the blessing of ministry?
I believe 1 Peter 5 provides some insightful advice for all of us who serve in ministry.
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 1 Peter 5:1-3 (NLT)
Notice that Peter’s advice isn’t theoretical. He says “I, too, am an elder…”.
He knows what it is like to be down in the trenches of leading in a local church.
“Care for the flock”… Lead Pastorally
Of all the metaphors God could have used for what we do, the primary metaphor he chose was that of “shepherd”. It’s not CEO, leader, visionary, or executive. Rather, it is the image of a nurturing, personal, caring shepherd.
Exodus 28:29 says
Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord.
Every single time Aaron went into the Holy Place he would wear a breastpiece that had 12 stones in it. Each stone represented every man, woman, boy and girl in the nation of Israel. It was a tangible reminder that as priests and pastors we are in the people business. I love those words “he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart”.
It reminds me of the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:7 (NIV) when he says It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart.
So, let me ask you, are the people that God has asked you to lead on your heart? If I am honest, I would have to admit that sometimes the people God has asked me to shepherd have been more on my nerves than on my heart.
Perhaps for some of us reading this article, we need to stop right now and ask God to reignite our love for our people. I know that sheep can be messy and obstinate and frustrating. But, true pastors love the sheep.
So, caring for the flock starts with loving the flock.
“that God has entrusted to you”… Lead Responsibly (as a steward)
It is unhealthy for us to start to think that our ministry belongs to us.
We must be careful about the subtle use of personal pronouns…”my church”…”My people”… “My ministry”.
I often use those phrases myself, but I think it is good to regularly remind ourselves that ultimately our people and ministry belong to God. It is His church, not mine. I am really an under-shepherd serving on behalf of The Chief Shepherd. The church is not my own personal business. As a steward (pastor), I should lead the church in the way that the owner (Christ) wants me to lead on his behalf. It is most healthy to view our ministries in view of stewardship, not ownership.
One of the church teams that I get to work with has taken this quite seriously. They have trained their staff members to talk about the ministry that they “look after” or “watch over”. That is the language of stewardship.
Those words from Peter also remind me that I am responsible only for the flock that God has entrusted to me. I am not responsible or accountable for the flock that God has given you. It is easy as a pastor to sometimes look over the fence and wish we had somebody else’s flock.
I love pastors who year after year are content to faithfully shepherd and watch over the flock that God has assigned them.
Before you move on with your day, sit with the following question for a few moments. What would it look like to be a better shepherd this year than I was last year?