Monday, November 19, 2012

Shepherding the Flock

Last week I made two visits to the vet with a sick Jack Russell Terrier.  I have a dentist appointment soon.  Right now my Tahoe is overdue for its 3,000 mile oil change, and it’s time for a tire rotation.  The field lines on my septic system need replacing, the shed needs a fresh coat of paint, and my garden needs to be watered. 

Nothing about “maintenance” sounds very glamorous.  But it’s absolutely necessary for the long life of anything:  be it a machine, structure, or your health.  That old car you saw on the highway still purring like a kitten after 200,000 miles runs well, not because some rich guy bought it and spent a fortune overhauling it, but more likely because its owner took good care of it from the first day.

A young man said to me once, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about oil changes.  I’ve owned my car for two years and have never had an oil change and it still runs like new.”  I said, “Just wait.  You’ll find out what the fuss is about.”  He did.

The same is true for churches.  The flock needs maintenance. 

The word “pastor” literally means “shepherd” in the Scriptures.  A shepherd’s prime responsibility is to keep the sheep; to guard them; feed them; stand with them.  When he does his work well, the sheep bear more sheep.  That’s the plan.

Maintenance.  For the pastor, it involves sermon preparation and sermon delivery so that the flock may be well fed.  It requires diligent prayer on my part for God’s guidance.  Visitation, weddings, funerals, baptism, communion, oversight of ministries, are part of the package too.  It means holding leaders accountable to do their jobs well.  Counseling those in crisis, nurturing the hurting, admonishing the strays.  It’s all part of the job.

I get the impression from some people that we’re supposed to forget this aspect of the ministry.  The old line goes like this:  We are supposed to be fishers of men – not keepers of the aquarium.”  Sounds good.  Only one problem.  It’s not true.

Sure, we are commanded to be fishers of men.  But we are also commanded to take care of God’s family, protect and feed (Acts 20:28; John 21:15).  We are commanded to bear fruit (John 15:16).  Whatever else that means, it surely means seeing people come to Christ, being discipled, becoming mature teachers and role models and influencers of others for Jesus’ sake.

Pray for the shepherd.  When he does his work well, the flock is healthy, well fed, and prolific.

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