PASTORS are shepherds of flocks; as evangelists are messengers of God, as prophets have a spiritual ministry of prayer, discernment and prophecy, as teachers are instructors, and apostles are delegates of the church on mission. But far too many people who are called pastors do not shepherd flocks – they are too often one of the other designates of Ephesians 4:11. But if we are ‘pastors’, in that we have “pastor” in our title, we ought to be just that; at least be capable of a pastoral response.
The pastoral response is simple: the ability to ‘see’ someone, where they’re at, to validate that position they’re in, and to respond with care, in facilitating healing. That is how we might expect a shepherd to act as he or she cares for his or her single sheep.
The pastor is a shepherd, first and foremost. But it doesn’t mean that he or she is not also an administrator, or an apologist or a teacher – indeed, Ephesians links the gift of pastor with teacher. Indeed, Paul may not be seen to be limiting the roles – we may bear effectual facets of all five – apostles (delegates of the church), prophets (spokespeople of the church), evangelists (messengers of the church), pastors (shepherds of the church), and teachers of the church. The church needs all five types of leaders.
But the pastor – if it is assumed that he or she is leader of the church – is foremost a pastor… by gifting, by direction, by purpose – or they ensure somebody else with pastoral gifting, and with similar empowering, is enlisted as support to them. The health of the Body is at stake. And the LORD holds the shepherd to account.
The pastoral response is inwardly driven and focused, even in the backdrop of perceptions to an overly internally focused church. (There are many church leaders, who, in seeking the lost, have lost sight of those already won to the LORD.)
The pastor is concerned, above all, for the one sheep. Their concern is not for the ninety-nine, if the ninety nine are happily grazing at pasture. The pastor goes out to seek the lost from their own fold.
The pastor, in this sense, is not an evangelist, though they are not precluded from evangelism in the general sense. But their first priority is the health, safety and welfare of those who are theirs not only by physical proximity, but by divine provision.
The good shepherd knows that there is no strength in the fold when the fold is restless. So, first and foremost, they ensure peace within the fold that God has given them to care for.
Jesus said there is “more joy over one sinner who has a change of heart, than over ninety-nine people who, by doing what is right, don’t need a change of heart.” (Luke 15:7) The pastor’s job is to look for the hurt sinner – in their charge – and do all they can to reconcile them to a change of heart.
The parable of the lost sheep is a pastoral parable, not so much an evangelistic parable.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.