[I am behind on blogging here, so I’m combining two chapters to make up ground.]
Chapter 6 deals with the area of pastoring which I am quite possibly least experienced in – shepherding. Let’s face it – I don’t know the first thing about taking care of people, which is okay, because this is good theoretical information which I can use practically at a later time. This chapter starts by outlining some of the reasons why shepherding (think one-on-one care of people, meeting and talking, helping with emotional and spiritual need, etc) is important, including the fact that sheep are important to Jesus, who bought them with His own blood; wolves stand ready to destroy the sheep; pastors will give an account as to how they cared for God’s sheep; and people with bad motives sometimes get into positions of authority (so prove you’re not in ministry for the title.)
In addition to the need for shepherding, shepherding comes with good results – in helping others with their sin, we are forced to deal with our own (remember, we aren’t hirelings!); shepherding helps us know how to preach and spin our sermons to deal with what people are struggling with on a regular basis (which I’d hoped was true, because I’ve struggled with that as a preacher who isn’t a shepherd); and it helps your influence as a preacher, as people see you humbled and willing to get your hands dirty, thus helping your credibility; and finally it helps you stay connected with Jesus and tests the genuineness of your faith – you can’t help people unless you’re in touch with the One who really can help them: Jesus Christ.
Then Darrin steps back just a little bit and keeps the whole thing in perspective: the pastor can’t be the only one who shepherds, because churches are too big for that. So this is where the skills of creating effective systems come into play: a pastor (church planter) has to be able to figure out a way in which he can get the entire congregation shepherded, involving other people. I’d say that the tricky part about this is making sure that the people you have in charge of sub-shepherding (so to speak) are on the same page as you theologically, ideologically, and practically, so that they’re passing on the heart of the pastor to the people in the church. I’ve considered this myself because in my church, I see the people who take others under their wing, particularly one woman in our church who mentors (shepherds) a lot of college-aged women. This is the logical solution (our pastor is a middle-aged man, one-on-one meetings with young women aren’t ideal) but I am curious as to the conversations that happen behind them involving getting everyone on the same page.
Patrick also briefly outlines some temptations in shepherding, including shepherding to hide from your own sins, as in shepherding so that people are so distracted by working through their own sin that you can have your own indulgences; shepherding to manipulate, or push a certain agenda; shepherding to cover weaknesses in other areas of pastoring, such as preaching; shepherding to conquer problems (or seeing people as problems to conquer); and finally [the one I feel I’d struggle with the most] shepherding to win acceptance. My view of shepherding is both theoretical and legalistic. When I think, “I should shepherd someone,” it’s because I feel it’s something I have to do, or else God is upset that I’m wasting what I know. I need to have a sanctified and redeemed view of shepherding, that it’s something I do because I love people, not because I have to in order to be saved.
The chapter concludes with an exhortation toward shepherds to look at Jesus as our own shepherd (not to say we don’t have our own mentors and support systems) and consider what He’s done for us, and in doing that, it’ll help us become more godly and compassionate shepherds for our own congregations.
The one thing I’ve heard about church planting that is constant is that it is draining. The demands on your time, your relationships, your finances, your energy, sleep schedule, etc are grueling. And so determination is a necessity. The author, in chapter 7, explains this necessity in detail, and how to stay determined in the midst of a hectic plant.
There is positive and negative motivation to be determined. The negative motivation (for lack of a better way of saying it) is that to not commit to a church is to rape it (Eugene Peterson writes) – to milk it for all it’s worth, and when you’ve gotten what you want, you abandon it. Failing to commit and subsequently endure in ministry will result in drastically reduced effectiveness in ministry. The only way to endure, writes Patrick, is to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. If we are motivated by ambition, willpower, or our desire to not let people down, we’ll fail, because those motivations will all run out at some point or another.
Fortunately for us, we can find Godly motivation to endure and commit to God’s church. First, citing 1 Corinthians 15:58 and 2 Corinthians 4:17, he points out that our labor in ministry is not in vain. In other words, the work we do has an eternal impact, and that impact is empowered by God (also see 1 Corinthians 3:6, my own personal addition.) God promises to grow our work in ministry. When we see that the results aren’t up to us, that helps us endure.
Second and similarly, we can remember the resurrection power of God displayed in Christ Jesus – if God raised Jesus from the dead, He can also “quicken our mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11.) Again, the power is God’s to do work in our ministry.
Third, we work for a heavenly reward. In other words (and I love how he says this,) “pastoral ministry is simply not worth it if you don’t factor in heaven.” If you’re not thinking about the fact that there is resurrection and new life for the people you are pastoring, you’re wasting your time. And when you realize that your reward is not just your church, but seeing Jesus face-to-face one day, you are spurred on to continue.
Finally, he offers some practical advice for men who want to stay determined: confront reality (understand that not every decision you make is going to make everyone happy, face the facts and the dirty parts of ministry, including sin in the church, lest it become unhealthy); Use your time wisely (don’t waste time, rest actively and effectively, eliminate time-suckers, etc.); get in shape (physical demands are innate); listen to wise counsel (always have people who can speak into your life and encourage you, helping you process what’s happening and bounce around ideas with); take a Sabbath rest (take a day off, a TRUE day off, on a regular basis); and spend time with your family who are (in Patrick’s words) “God’s sanctified distractions from ministry idolatry.”
For me, most of these ideas haven’t been practically applied, but I’m beginning to see that some of them can be now (using time wisely, getting in shape, listening to counsel, resting, and while I don’t have a family, I can take time to spend time with and enjoy my girlfriend.) even going back to the previous chapter, I can start examining some of my motivations in ministry, especially toward shepherding, and re-evaluating them with a gospel perspective.