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Pastoring: The Gloriously Grueling Gift

History is replete with the legacy of shepherds passing this encouragement on to the next generation of shepherds. Barnabas passed it to Paul who passed it to Timothy. The Apostle John passed it on to Polycarp who passed it on to Irenaeus. More recently, D. L. Moody passed it to Wilbur Chapman who passed it to Billy Sunday who passed it to Mordecai Ham, who passed it to Billy Graham who passed it to Rick Warren.

Pastor, we must recapture and retain the conviction that every pastor needs to be encouraged by other pastors, and every pastor needs to encourage other pastors. Pause for a minute and ask yourself, who has mentored you and who are you mentoring? If you do not currently have one or the other, who are the pastors and aspiring pastors who could fill these roles in your ministry?

Shepherd to Sheep

“Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3 (ESV)

Peter shifts to the relational context between a shepherd and the sheep drawing our attention to the fact that the behavior and attitude of the church leader in times of crisis and in times of calm will either encourage or discourage the flock. The sheep take on the perspective of the leader. So, Peter continues his encouragement of pastors by pointing out that leading faithfully requires that we have the right perspective and the right attitude as pastors.

The right perspective is revealed in the phrase, “God’s flock.” As pastors, we must remember and remind ourselves that the local church we pastor is not “our” church. It is God’s church, and He is entrusting His precious sheep to our care. Ultimately, Jesus is THE Shepherd and we are the under-shepherds. Cultivating this perspective in our hearts pushes us to rejoice in the responsibility and honor we possess as local church pastors. Pastor, God trusts you with those you shepherd. What a wonderful stewardship we have been given!

The right attitude is rooted in the fact that pastoring is a divine call engaged deliberately with intense desire. We shepherds are sheep first with Jesus as our chief Shepherd. As a result, the best attitude for our spiritual leadership is one in which we equip the saints through our leading by example. We get our hands dirty. There is nothing below us. There is nothing too insignificant for us in pastoring. Just as Jesus’ earthly ministry was incarnational- among us – our pastoring is incarnational – among our fellow sheep entrusted to our caring leadership.

What this means for pastors is that we must be first and most invested in the local church entrusted to our care by God Himself.  I believe God entrusts some of His shepherds with a national or even a global platform, and I am thankful for those who live into that call with faithfulness, integrity, and humility.  However, I cannot help but wonder if many who are pursuing a platform greater than the local church context are being subtly lured by a voice other than God’s.  Pastor, all our ‘side gigs’ should flow from the flock God has granted us and should bless that flock most.  This relational context is another regular reminder that pastoring is a privilege gifted by God Himself.  So, let’s regularly take stock of this context by asking ourselves the following questions, “Do I love the flock God has entrusted to me?”  “Do they bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face?”  “Do I look out at them and think to myself, what a privilege to be the shepherd of these people?”

Christ to Clergy

“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”  1 Peter 5:4 (ESV) 

Peter’s last relational context is mind-blowing.  It is hard to put into words how powerful what he says is for pastors in our present context.  Jesus Christ, the chief Shepherd, provides a forever promise for faithful shepherds that is beyond our ability to comprehend and certainly beyond anything we could ask or imagine.  Every pastor should highlight, underline, and circle this verse.  Pastors, we should write it on post-its and plaster them on bathroom mirrors and vehicle dashboards.  We should frame it and hang it in our dining rooms and studies.  We should hide it in our hearts and shout it from the rooftops when we are tempted to become overwhelmed by the mounting challenges and pressures of pastoring in troubled times.  The Savior is telling us that pastoring is a privilege gifted by God Himself that promises eternal honor.  Christ is reserving an eternal state of visible high honor for pastors in heaven!  Is there any other vocation that is given such a promise?

Perhaps your reserves are running low, pastor.  Maybe you are weighed down by decision fatigue and weary of the petty debates that are plaguing your attempts to gather your local church for a time of worship and feasting on God’s Word.  Honor and appreciation may be in short supply for you.  Remember this, God has placed you right where you are and He is smiling down on you as you faithfully fill the role of pastor for the slice of His flock He has entrusted to your care.  In His hands, He holds a crown of eternal honor reserved for you in heaven.  Take heart in your relationship with Him.  What do pastors of churches in America need right now?  Whatever other answers we may give to this question, I believe we must include that it wouldn’t hurt to be reminded of Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 5:1-4.  In the trials and triumphs, the problems and pleasures, the difficulty and delight, pastoring is a privilege gifted by God Himself.  Be encouraged pastor as you encourage those under your caring leadership to rejoice in the gospel of Christ.

This article originally appeared here.

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The most important information about me is that I am a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. I’m not as passionate about it as I would like to be and I certainly stumble following Jesus far more than I’d like to admit. But the driving desire of my heart is that I would live a life so zeroed in on pursuing Jesus Christ that it inspires a passion in those around me to know and imitate Jesus Christ in a far greater way than even I am.