Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Shepherd's Heart

I have five children, thanks to college graduation, they're all at home again, at least for a little while. One of the elders in my church has six kids. He told me something years ago that has always stuck in my memory, and that now can be verified by my own experience. There is a sense of peace and satisfaction that comes when all of them are in bed at the end of the day; safe, sound, and snoring. Until then, there's always a bit of tension or concern, at least enough to keep rest at bay. When one or more are gone, you can remember them in prayer, but it's not quite the same as seeing them zonked out under the covers!

As a pastor, I "worry" about my people. I believe I should be at least a big brother to them, but the truth is, I feel like a father in so many ways. I want to protect them from the predations of wolves. I want to teach them the family business and see them step forward into responsibility and productivity. I enjoy hearing them tell me about their lives, how things went when they tried something, what they've noticed, what they learned, or what God said to them. I like being there in the seasons of life with them, watching them go through their paces.

There is a certain movement afoot today that resents that kind of patriarchal thinking-- that a pastor would consider the folk of the congregation "his", or that he would feel fatherly about them. So old school! Those of that ilk do not want a pastor but a host, it seems to me.

There's also a school of thought out there that's very pragmatic about organizational behavior and the "business" of church. Those of that ilk would see my feelings as a detriment to growth and an inhibitor to leadership. Some sheep, in that kind of view, don't need to be there if they're not part of the demographic the church entrepreneur is trying to recruit or if they're not in tune with his vision. Leadership is about making tough decisions. Not getting bogged down in a singular problem is a ticket to progress: keep the train rolling at all costs! Just because church is about sheep doesn't mean the pastor has to step in something sticky! ;-) Pastors that buy into this kind of thinking end up as the CEO of Joe Schmo & Sons, Religious Practitioners, LLC.

I have a different dream. Jesus said to his Father, in the midst of his high priestly prayer, "None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled." Jesus could bear to let a nonbeliever go, but if one was a believer, he couldn't bear to lose any. I don't know how to follow another example but his. So with fatherly concern, I'll rest much easier, when the twilight closes on the longest day's labor, and I see all the children that have been in my charge under the cover of Jesus' arms in glory. In the meantime, God, grant me neither keen business sense nor savvy marketing skills but simply a shepherd's heart.