You are sitting in your membership class and/or interview, and every box is being checked. You are learning, growing, and most importantly you appreciate the preaching. Service leaves you invigorated, wanting to live a life souled out for the Lord Jesus Christ.
The change of direction occurs when the pastor starts asking more in-depth questions, and you are taken completely off guard. That can feel unusual. Even more so, when your pastor invites you to spend time with him and his family. I remember the time my pastor began asking me deep questions. On the surface, it seemed as if he was all up in my business. He would eventually tell me how he really cared about me and wanted to care for my soul.
Many pastors care for their flock like this. But is there a responsibility for the flock when it comes to their relationship with their pastors? Are we willing to be shepherded? Can you be shepherded?
Consider the following types of individuals who may struggle to be shepherded. Maybe you are one of them.
1. The media consumer
Information and opinions are everywhere. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, CNN and Fox News are platforms consumed by Christians and others. Of course, there is some good within these platforms, but for the person who consumes these outlets how does this affect their relationship with their pastor?
If presenting information from these outlets, can one’s pastor speak into their lives with the truths of scripture especially when pushing back on opinions they have consumed? Consider the mega church pastor or the pastor/Christian celebrity who has over 100k followers? How much influence do they have in comparison with the one who sees them every Sunday? It is rare to find someone say the best preacher in my life or the pastor I listen mostly to is the one who shepherds me every week.
2. The seminary graduate/former pastor
This can hit home for many. Why? Because not all who attend seminary roll right into full time pastor roles. One spends years in seminary being taught in depth biblical concepts. However, can the individual who is seminary trained be shepherded by a pastor who may not know as much “theology” as them? Can you sit under the preaching of the Word being edified rather than critiquing the sermon?
Consider also the former pastor. The former pastor is the one who has taken a break or for another reason is now the member of a local church with no public roles. Can this man be an encouragement to his pastor even though he is no longer in the position?
3. The one with church hurt
Some people may find it hard to open up to pastors because of bad experiences in the past. I can recall a pastor who was a dear friend that found out information about me—only to use my struggles against me.
Given that such things do happen, individuals may find it hard to open up and let their guards down with their pastor. Even though you have been hurt can you be shepherded by your pastor? How much do you share with them? Do you trust your pastor with information about your life?
4. The friend
Perhaps you join a church because you have an already established relationship with the pastor. You have hung out before. You may have even grown up together. But what happens when your friend who is now your pastor admonishes you for the way you speak to your wife? What happens when the pastor’s wife speaks to you because of the way you dishonour your husband? Is friendship more valuable than your soul being cared for?
5. The one with life experience
The life experienced person is the one who has been in church all their life. They have grown up in the church. They have read the Bible cover to cover numerous times. They can tell you about justification, sanctification, propitiation and any other theological term. They haven’t gone to seminary, but they have lived through some things. You make a mistake and they are ready to correct you. But the question they will face is can they be shepherded? Can they be shepherded by an individual especially if considerably younger?
These are different individuals within a church, and I know I am missing more. In many of these cases, pride prevents many individuals from being shepherded. Only Jesus can free us from ourselves and help us to allow ourselves to be cared for and care for others.
However, the question remains the same. Can I submit to the leadership of the under shepherds of this church? Is it better for me to attend another church where I can respect the leadership? Am I willing to be cared for? Do I want to be cared for and how does that look? There is a strike difference between the nosy pastor and the one who truly loves you and cares for your soul.
Shepherding and relationships can take time. I don’t want to dismiss the reality of anyone one walking into a building and instantly sharing all the details of their lives. But shepherding and being shepherded is how the Bible lists the relationship between the flock and their pastors. People generally want to be cared for.
They want to know they are loved and want to know their pastors care for them. There are some who have abused this privilege by wielding their authority as if they were Christ. However, to the one who is genuine in their approach, we must ask how best can my pastor shepherd me?