Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pastoral Shepherding

Pastor's are called to be shepherds.

Too much pastoral writings out there talks about "vision" and then "vision" becomes something akin to divine revelation that is often pushed through at all cost. Yesterday, I watched some of The Nines online conference. Several contributors talked about "vision" as if it was divine revelation from God. If I recall correctly, on person even substituted "revelation" as an appropriate word for the concept he was describing.

Sheep are often mowed down as troublemaking dissenters when they may in fact lost the church & need to be loved through the change. Brian Croft offers way better advice that runs counter to some of the more prominent streams of thinking.
"The most common tactic of a zealous pastor, which is the worst thing he could do, is to enter a revitalization work with an impatient conviction to change what needs to be changed within the first year or two.  Of course, there is a need for change.  Otherwise, the church would not be characterized as in need of “revitalization.”  Yet, change must come slowly.  Trust must be built.  Sheep need first to feel cared for by the shepherd before they will move forward in such a way that is “different than they have ever done it.”  It is not just about a slow change, but a change that must be well-timed."

Read his whole post a see how he shepherded his sheep and slowly cultivated change by loving the people. His approach strikes me as far more Biblical, loving and pastoral faithful.

This brings me to one other thought: I realize that pastors often encounter resistance and critics but pastors much persevere with sacrificial love. The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The pastor who can't humbly and gently respond the sheep that attack is in danger of being more of a hireling over the sheep, a consultant or business leader, than a sacrificial shepherd. 

I realize that some critics may have real ungodly motives. As an aside, I once had someone visit the church and ask me a number of doctrinal questions that I thought was developing into real good discussion and interaction only to have the many call be an unbeliever telling me to repent (almost threatening fire and brimestone on me) all because I did not agree with him--despite that I could defend my position from Scripture. So I've been there with critics.

But some of the best advice that I've received from one of my mentors was that when you face criticism assume that somewhere at the core of it the person has the best intentions. No matter how they address it, or all the wrong they pile on, or how deeply they may pervert your motives, you can usually find at the core some area of agreement that serves as a common ground. Often it is a love for the church and other people, no matter how wrong they act on it.

It seems that some (many?) pastors operate in a default mode of assuming if the critic acts wrongly in the expression of the criticism their motives must be wrong. The problem is we cannot judge the heart. Our default mode is not to assume we are right because God has raised us as the leader. If I am the leader of God's flock, my default mode should be deeper humility because of my position, consider Christ's example in Philippians 2:5-10. 

The pastor's job is to love the sheep, and if Christ loved the sheep enough to die for them--the pastor must handle critics with love and tenderness. Granted some pastors in large ministries have bloggers who know nothing and love to critique everything--but I am talking about how the average pastor handles criticism from his own flock. I hear far less pastor talking about absorbing the criticism and sacrificially loving the flock than I hear about "sticking to the vision" or "letting people go" if they aren't on board. It seems, and this may be antidotal at best, that far to many would rather crucify someone who doesn't agree with the vision that they are willing to let themselves be crucified for the sheep. 

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