What do pastors do?

shepherdIt’s a running joke among pastors that it is assumed that Sunday is their only work day. Time in sermon preparation, prayer, visiting, phone conversations, more prayer, reading and feeding himself spiritually, taking care of his family and home can amass an impressive number of minutes!  I came across this passage from Ephesians 4 in my morning reading today:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Although too lengthy to put on a resume, this pretty well summarizes what a shepherd does.

  • Give believers the tools they need to grow in the Lord
  • Oversee the flock, and encourage edifying behavior instead of destructive behavior
  • Encourage unity and common understanding of truth
  • To guide those in the church toward Christlikeness
  • Exhort believers to move toward maturity
  • Help those in the church to become discerning between truth and error
  • Speak the truth in love, even when it is hard truth
  • To grow up in the Lord even as he encourages his sheep to do the same
  • Equip the body to work as a unit, not as individual entities
  • Promote spiritual health which requires all body members (or parts) to depend upon one another
  • To have love as the basis, driving force, and ultimate end of all of the above

Pastors are not called to entertain, amass huge congregations, form programs, or to be passively agreeable. Shepherding (as Phillip Keller shares in his insightful book) is a messy, probing, exhausting, invasive, persevering, occasionally lonely, sometimes intimidating, always loving quest.

Shepherds do not stand at the door of the sheepfold, pat each creature on the head and say, “Have a good day!”

And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? James 2:16

No, shepherding is proactive. It leads, it acts, and without regard to reciprocation.

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. 2 Cor. 12:15

The shepherd knows the personalities of each of his flock, examines them for disease and parasites , protects them vigilantly from predators, provides fresh and healthful grazing and clear refreshing water, stands nearby to support in weakness and fear, patiently guides and draws those who through willfulness or ignorance are pursuing what they believe to be “greener pastures”.

Shepherds give. Many depend upon them. Shepherding done right is game-on. Pray for your pastors.

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