I was reflecting last week in my blog about the uniqueness of being a Pastor and dealing with people’s life experiences from the cradle to the grave. I was drawing a parallel with Peter’s words in his 1st epistle where he writes, “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; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (5:2-3). I think one of the most challenging experiences in Peter’s life is found in the 21st chapter of John’s gospel. That is the experience where Jesus shows up early in the morning and he directs his disciples, who are fishing on the Sea of Galilee, to a huge catch of fish. It is in this scene that Jesus questions Peter’s love relationship with Him.
Remember 3 times Jesus asked Peter if he loves Him. After each affirmation of Peter’s love, Jesus tells Peter to “Tend My lambs”, “Shepherd My Sheep”, “Tend My Sheep”, (v.15-17, NASB). The idea of caring for Jesus’ flock is burnt into the consciousness of Peter so that he would later write to the elders about shepherding the flock of God among them (1 Peter 5). The metaphor of likening God’s people to sheep is very clearly demonstrated by the words used by Jesus and Peter. We even find this idea in the amazing prophecy of Isaiah in the 53rd chapter when he writes,“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”. (v. 6, NKJV).
Because of the biblical language of pastoring being likened to shepherding I was stunned a few years back when I read an article by one of today’s church leaders. This mega-church pastor was saying that the metaphor of shepherding is outdated and irrelevant for our day and age. He was advocating for a different model, one that would more closely align with today’s business CEO. One of the observations I’d make about life is that people tend to run everything through the grid of what they do for a living. If you are a mechanic you translate everything through the grid of finding and solving problems. If you are a financial planner everything is run through the grid of the bottom line. Whatever you do for 40, 50 or 60 hours a week definitely shapes the way you understand everything else. Therefore a mega-church pastor is going to translate everything through the grid of his personal experiences. So his suggestion that the shepherding model needs to be disregarded for a CEO model is grounded in his own ministry experience.
The problem is that people need a shepherd from the cradle to the grave. In the 1st century there were no mega-churches. I heard a preacher recently boast about the 30,000 plus that were meeting at his multi-sight locations. My question was, “how do people’s personal needs get met in that context?” One of the reasons I believe so many pastors are dropping out of ministry (most recent number 1,500 a month) is that they come into ministry with the expectation that they are going to be the next Joel Osteen and Chuck Swindoll. But the average church size in America is still under 100. For sure there are some really great mega-churches but there is way more really small churches that need shepherds too. No, I don’t think Jesus and Peter would throw out the shepherding model that has been in place for nearly 2000 years. What do you think?
All for Christ,