shepherding the shepherd
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7) Put that way, ministry is pretty basic. Whatever else we do—vision casting, programing, hobnobbing—speaking the word of God and exemplifying the life of faith are our lasting legacies. It also reminds me that, as ordinary as we are, people do not easily forget their pastors’ influence.
I don’t think pastors fail because the burdens are too heavy or the enemies too fierce. I wonder if the difference between finishing and failing—the one test that is up to us—is simply being true. The silent, secret pressure upon pastors, in ways no other Christians face, is to fake it.
“Our time of need” can be anytime but it has a way of coming to a head for people on Sunday morning when it is not so easy for them to ignore Jesus any longer. That’s when we pastors become gospel greeters, welcoming them to find rest for their souls through songs, Communion, prayers of confession, Scriptures of assurance, and our sermons.
There are likely some walking dead entering your church on Sunday mornings, people who only profess Christ but have no new life. Thus we are always preaching to some dry bones dependent upon the breath of God. But a larger group in the churches we serve are believers meandering in a kind of spiritual no-man’s-land, lethargic and short-winded.
Warning is part of our work, not just to the unevangelized, but even more to professing believers “who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God …” but yet are like “… land that produces thorns and thistles … in danger of being cursed.” We must not mince words. Sometimes we’re duty-bound to use language stark and stern.
We are preparing soldiers for combat and sojourners for an arduous wilderness journey where they will have to trust God for all manner of sustenance, guidance, protection, and truth. We are entrusted with distancing God’s people from this world, the only country they’ve ever known, and stirring in them an abiding homing instinct for a far better country, for the homeland they’ve never seen.