Sheep, by nature, are animals that lack intelligence and the forethought to protect themselves from harm. So, it is by no accident that the holy Scriptures compare the church of Jesus Christ to a flock of sheep. This imagery uniquely defines the extent of our weakness in our humanity and our desperate need for the strength, guidance, and protection of the Shepherd. So having established that the sheep must trust and depend on the shepherd for their basic survival, we now must examine the shepherd. This brings me to the point of this blog post which focuses on the heart of the shepherd/pastor.
To have a shepherd, either a literal shepherd or a figurative one, in the office of the Pastor who does not love his sheep will ultimately lead them to ruin. Too often men who claim to be called by God are placed in pastoral positions and quickly discover the task of being the pastor as too weighty and either leave the church, which does irreparable harm, or he stays with a heart toward his own interest and leads his congregation towards the edge of destruction because he lacks the love in his heart for his sheep. As I start my pastorate here at Faith in Christ Fellowship, I am reminded of the weightiness of the position and the call for me to love my sheep that have been divinely entrusted to me by the head Shepherd. God has uniquely called and equipped me to lead the sheep at Faith in Christ Fellowship. Yet, not only has he called me to lead you, but also to love you. The two are not mutually exclusive to one another but rather should be combined in the pastor’s heart as he seeks the betterment of his fold. It has always been strange to me how the Lord gives the pastor almost an instantaneous love for his congregation. However, this has happened to me in past pastorates and now it has happened with you here at Faith in Christ Fellowship. I truly love you and long for your well-being. So out of this heart of love that I have for you I want you to know that I commit to the following things as your shepherd:
- I will pray for you. This may sound simple yet it is exactly what we see Jesus, the head Shepherd, doing for His apostles throughout the New Testament. A pastor who fails to pray consistently for his sheep is a shepherd who lacks a heart of love for them.
- I will feed you. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Mt.4:4). The public preaching on the Lord’s Day and the subsequent teaching throughout the week is not intended for your pleasure but rather for your nourishment. If you haven’t noticed already, I am passionate about the Word of God and its effect in the lives of those who hear it. Run me off as your pastor if I ever begin preaching or teaching easy truths or if I ever become entertainment focused in my messages! I am not a clown to entertain you but rather a shepherd to feed you.
- I will lead you. Far too often this is where pastors have issues arise. They either try to lead the sheep with force, which is not necessarily bad but can come from a heart that lacks love, or they try to lead in a manner that is more hands-off instead of pointing/modeling the way. The balanced pastor does both in love. If you have ever seen the picture of Jesus carrying the sheep on his shoulder then my assumption as to your emotional response is that you go “awe, that’s so sweet”. However, truth be told, the sheep is having to be carried because the lamb’s leg is broken, not because the lamb broke it by accident but because the shepherd broke it intentionally. The sheep was wayward and refused to follow the leading of the shepherd so he broke the leg for the survival of the sheep. The pastor should always be willing to “break the leg of the sheep” if it’s for their spiritual survival. Additionally, the pastor should always lead by pointing/modeling the way. A pastor’s life should be a model, an arrow if you will, that points his sheep toward the pursuit of holiness and growth in Christ through the Spirit.
- I will not abandon you. One of the biggest factors that affect church health is the abandonment of the church by the pastor either physically or emotionally. Like a shepherd who abandons his flock in the field and ravenous wolves come in to devour them, so it is with a church who has been abandoned by their pastor. Now, this doesn’t mean that when a pastor is called away to lead another congregation or if he desires to retire from ministry that the church has been abandoned. No, rather what I am explaining here is when a pastor abandons his flock for the lure of more money and prestige. This type of man leaves the sheep for his own selfish ambitions without regard for the well-being of the church. The pastor can also abandon his flock emotionally. This is when a pastor gives up on his people. He goes through the motions but his desire to love them, pray for them, lead them and feed them is gone. This can occur for many different reasons from burnout to idealistic dreams of easier ministries but the result is always the same. The sheep are weakened, hungry, vulnerable, lacking in love, and in leadership.
I hope that this has been an encouragement to you, as well as a testimony to my commitment to Faith in Christ Fellowship and her members. I love you all and look forward to seeing everyone this upcoming Lord’s Day.