It’s easy to get distracted these days. Pastors like me need to be reminded of what Peter wrote a long time ago: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2).
It’s not wrong to think about current events or to speak on issues that matter. I’m grateful for how well many Christians speak about what’s happening in the world. We need more of this, not less.
But we also need pastors who are clear on their task: to shepherd their church that’s among them. We need pastors who know when it’s time to log off from social media and pray for and love their church with skill and focus. The crazier this world gets, the more we need pastors who pastor their churches well.
The Importance of the Local Church
We’re not settling when we pay attention to our churches. Read the New Testament well and you discover that the church is where the action is. It’s where God displays his manifold wisdom to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:10). It’s the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). It’s where the truth is proclaimed, where disciples are made, and where faith is lived out in the messiness of life.
Dallas Willard understood this. “The most important thing that is happening in your community is what is happening there under the administration of true pastors for Christ,” he wrote. “If you, as a pastor do not believe that then you do not understand the dignity of what you are supposed to be doing. Whatever your situation, there is nothing more important on earth than to dwell in the knowledge of Christ and to bring that knowledge to others.”
We need a biblical vision of the importance of the local church, a deepened conviction about what God accomplishes through the proclamation of the Word, and a renewed understanding of the urgency and dignity of the pastoral office. We can’t forsake our posts. The way forward is for the church to be the church, and for pastors to play their role in shepherding their churches so that those churches stay faithful.
A Local Love
With world events swirling out of control, it’s hard to see how the local church can make much of a difference. We’re tempted to look for larger platforms and to make a bigger difference.
I find myself regularly needing to reread parts of Zack Eswine’s book The Imperfect Pastor. Eswine confesses and confronts our desire for a bigger platform, as if that would do more to glorify God in our generation than a local place and ordinary love.
Jesus created us to be local, Eswine writes. He’s given us a handful of people we’re supposed to love. He’s given us a place to inhabit and a thing to do there. “What do you suppose the work of a pastor entails in light of this?” he asks. “At minimum, we would assume local attentiveness to divine love, among ordinary people and places, with local weather and stories.”
“It is easy to do a great thing for God so long as greatness does not require interior humility, practical love for the people right in front of us, or submission to the presence of Jesus in the place we already are.”
That’s why I keep thinking about Peter’s instruction: shepherd the flock of God that is among you. We couldn’t ask for a bigger, more important, or more glorious task. We need more people who to write books and blog posts helping us understand what’s happening in our world — but most of all we need the church to be the church, and for pastors to shepherd their people, preaching and praying and loving and serving.
Heads down, blinders on. Let’s shepherd our flocks, and give thanks that God has entrusted some of his flock to us. What a privilege. What a responsibility.