Rediscovering the Shepherd’s Heart
Having been a minister for over 25 years, I have come to a place where I wonder if pastors have forgotten what their primary calling is. In most of my years in ministry, pastors were seen as providing a vision-based leadership. I am not against this and being future-focused has been one of my gifting. But as I encounter more and more people who are leaving the church and as someone who has even contemplated many times of leaving the institutional church, I have been praying for God to reignite the shepherd’s heart in me.
What does it mean for me to shepherd Christ’s flock?I like what Peter the apostle writes. “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5: 1-4).
For me to shepherd Christ’s flock well, it means firstly realizing it is Christ’s flock. Andrew Bonar writes “A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hands of God” I love that picture. A holy minister is an awesome weapon that God uses against the wolves that come to attack God’s sheep. There are so many hurting sheep who have left the fold. If I am to be a holy minister, a weapon to defend God’s sheep, I need to make it my top priority to nurture my relationship with the Chief Shepherd and to listen to Him.
Secondly, for me to shepherd Christ’s flock well, I need to watch over them willingly and to be godly examples for them to follow. In a study done by Nauss, he identifies seven different profiles of effective ministers – priest and preacher, personal and spiritual director, visitor-counselor, administrator, teacher and parish worker. All of them were to do with shepherding functions. I have to admit this has been an area that has been neglected as I focus on being a good visionary leader and delegated these ministerial functions to others. Yes when I was ordained as an Anglican minister and received a call to be a Baptist minister, I made the profession that I will shepherd the flock that God has given responsibility for. Have we as pastors, replaced this primary calling by putting our time and energy into the effective and efficient running of the church institution?
Thirdly, for me to shepherd Christ’s flock is to follow Christ’s model of leadership. Christ was secure in himself so he was prepared to lead by servanthood (Philippians 2: 5-8). In today’s churches, we have leaders who are insecure within themselves and rely on title, position or office to make them feel secure. However Jesus’ call to me is to serve the sheep and to be an example for them to follow.
Lord, help me to rediscover the Shepherd’s heart.