A Plea for Shepherding (or, We Are Not CEOs)

This is a blog for all people involved in church. Do not be thrown by the title; this blog is not simply for pastors alone. Laymen need to hear this just as much as pastors. Laymen lay the ground for pastoral expectations in the local church.  You should read this, even if you aren’t in vocational ministry. Everyone involved with the local church should understand the calling of a pastor.

 

Pastors, we are not called to be entrepreneurs.

Many in the evangelical world today will try and try to convince pastors that they are called to be business level tycoons and entrepreneurs. Huge conference are held every month, it seems, that are focused on learning worldly tips and tricks and gimmicks to understand the market (whatever that means) and lead like a secular CEO. I want to be clear: There can be some good to understanding some leadership tactics from these guys. We can grow in some ways from them, but we must realize, as pastors, that we are not CEOs or entrepreneurs. Rather, we are called to an even higher title: under-shepherds in the church of Jesus Christ.

Worldly tips and tricks and gimmicks will only get you so far and will only attract so many people. They will change within in the next year, and you will have to learn an entire new batch of worldly tips and tricks and gimmicks to attract people, and this pattern will continue over time, leaving you exhausted, burned out, and hungry for something more. Being a CEO Pastor is exhausting. It brings more focus on you and your church’s kingdom rather than the kingdom of God. This is a plea for a more biblical view of pastoral ministry, one that is focused on shepherding than a business.

In the Scriptures, God never refers to the church as a business. He never likens the body of Christ to a start-up. He does constantly refer to the church as a flock of sheep. Over and over again throughout the New Testament, believers are referred to as sheep, a part of the entire flock of God’s people. Who takes care of and tends to and feed sheep? Shepherds, not CEOs! Ultimately, this flock is under the care and provision of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church, as a flock of sheep, is shepherded in the highest sense by Jesus himself. He is our good and perfect Shepherd. John 10:1-18 clearly shows Jesus’ love and tender care for his sheep. He knows his sheep personally. His sheep know and understand his voice, and he calls them by name. They do not turn to another shepherd, but follow him always. Jesus is the good and perfect shepherd, in that he willingly laid down his life for his sheep, and he knows his own and his own know him. This flock includes all who have repented of their sins and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Jesus is the chief shepherd of this flock. He is the example of a shepherd in the purest and most perfect sense.

But Jesus also calls and appoints “under-shepherds” to serve the flock. These men are called to lead the church in person by tending to the flock. Peter writes about this in his 1 Peter 5:1-11. Peter writes from the perspective of a fellow “elder” or shepherd. Peter knew what it meant to be a shepherd of the flock. Jesus had personally and intimately commanded Peter to “tend his sheep” and “feed his sheep” in John 21:15-17. Peter wasn’t interested in leading the church like a business owner. He wasn’t interested in turning a profit. He wasn’t interested in his own popularity. Rather, he was involved in ministry because Christ called him to “feed the sheep.” He was involved in ministry because before Peter was even born, God prepared good works and ministry for him in the church that would come about after the ascension of Jesus. So Peter, then, can write with full confidence and joy to say, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2-3).”

Pastors, we should be joyfully shepherding the flock that God has entrusted to us. We should be interested and invested in their lives. We should know our flock and our flock should know us. We are not called to stay around in our ivory tower offices reading up on the latest trends in leadership or rehearsing our theological diatribes all the day long. There is a time and place for those things, yes, but as shepherds, we must be around our people! We must know their struggles. They must feel free to come to us when they feel doubt, or when they are in pain, or when they are in a crisis of faith. A shepherd is accessible to his sheep.

The Lord is not interested in fads. Fads come and they go. God desires his under-shepherds to set an example for eternity. Will you be remembered as the pastor who changed with every new fad and trick, or will your people remember you as a humble man who preached the gospel everyday? Perhaps they won’t even remember your name, but they’ll sure remember the gospel you preached if you are a biblical pastor. Your time as a shepherd of the flock of God should be marked by an unwavering commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, tenderness and care for your church, defense against the wolves in sheep’s clothing, and biblically-centered ministry. That is what makes a lasting impact in the church. That is what the Bible commands of you.

 

I’ve put together 6 questions to ask yourself, as a pastor. These will show whether you are a shepherd or a CEO, and hopefully point you to the right direction of being more shepherdly in your pastorate.

  • Are you unwaveringly committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ?

This is of utmost importance, and should go without saying. Pastors must be completely and totally committed to the gospel. They should preach no other message than that of Christ. They should lead no other ministry than that which spreads the gospel and makes disciples. They should be completely gospel-centered in life and practice.

  • Do your church members know you?

Of course, your church members know your name. They may even be friends with you on Facebook. Employees also know the name of their CEO, but they don’t know the CEO. But does your church know you? Your church should know who you are, so that they can trust you. Allow them to know you. Allow your church to pray with you. Allow your church to know what you enjoy, so that they can enjoy it with you.

  • Are you approachable?

Many people have left churches because they felt that the pastoral staff were not approachable. Being unapproachable is a characteristic of a CEO, not a shepherd. Christians need their pastors. They need a shepherd. Do your church people feel comfortable approaching you for counseling or prayer? They should. If not, the problem is more than likely not with them, but with you as a pastor. Pastors should go out of their way to their members know that they are approachable.

  • Are you teachable?

Nobody likes listening to someone who thinks they have it all figured out, because everyone knows that no one has it all figured out. Most CEOs get to the top because people think they have it all figured out. Shepherds lead from a position of humility because they know they don’t have it all figure out. Your church will see right through a know-it-all attitude. In order to shepherd, you must be teachable. Be a lifelong learner. Learn from your congregation. There will be people in the flock that know more about the church than you. Learn from them. You will be able to pastor more effectively if you are willing to learn from those people. Be teachable.

  • Are you willing to stand between the sheep and the wolves?

One job of a shepherd is to defend the sheep. In the church, there are many who like to creep in, throwing around a few orthodox statements as a smokescreen to hide their blasphemous teaching. These are called “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Shepherds are called to defend against these people. We must defenders of orthodoxy, and that is almost never easy. Heresy is easy. Guard yourself with the Bible. Stay in the Word and lead by the Word, so that when wolves show up teaching a false gospel, you will be ready to defend by the Word.

  • Do you lead like Jesus?

We should all seek to be more like Jesus everyday. That’s called sanctification. But pastors should seek to lead like Jesus. He laid down the perfect example of leadership, and it’s found within the book you should be consulting most often: The Bible. Before you begin to pull out the latest “Christian” leadership book, read over the gospels, and see how Jesus led, and taught us to lead. True biblical leadership comes from the Word of God, and the example of Jesus. Take time to check that out, and apply it to your church and congregation.

I write all this to say: Shepherding is the biblical example for pastors. God gave us this beautiful and fulfilling picture of pastoral ministry so that we would follow it. I’m not “anti-modern leadership” or anything like that, but we must go the Bible for our picture of pastoring. God wants shepherds for his flocks, not CEOs.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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