Seeking to be a good shepherd

Tom Oden in his book Pastoral Theology describes the vocation of a pastor this way:

to know the parish territory, its dangers, its green pastures, its steep precipices, its seasons and possibilities. The pastor leads the flock to spring water and safe vegetation.

This is not the only way he describes the pastoral vocation — and it is worth noting that I do not qualify as a pastor according to his book as I have not been ordained — but it is one that both resonates with me and highlights some of my struggles with our debates in the United Methodist Church.

I am vexed by questions over sexual behavior because I worry about my responsibility to help the people I serve remain safe and to be nourished. I worry about leading them to foul waters and feeding them poisonous herbs rather than life-giving food.

For the better part of 2,000 years, the shepherds who have gone before have pointed to certain inviting pools and warned us that they are not the waters of life, but of death. Now, we are told that the waters they avoided were safe and life-giving all along. The shepherds of the past were wrong. They misunderstood Jesus and the apostles. Drink and be filled.

My prayer is to be a good pastor one day. I seek to learn from the masters of the craft who have come before me. Mostly, I don’t want to lead the sheep to slaughter because I listened to the wrong voices. I want to serve them and help them live as Jesus would have them live.

It would be pastoral malpractice for me to tell the people something is not a sin that is, in fact, one. It would damaging as well to declare something sinful that is not. I am trying to avoid both errors.


4 thoughts on “Seeking to be a good shepherd

  1. When in doubt, I’ve always found it helpful to trust the exegesis of the Church. Oden’s work has been a gift.

  2. I sometimes wonder if we have mingled so much the voice of the church with the voice of the world that we now seem to wrestle with hearing and knowing the only voice that matters. The thing that strikes me as being the most irrational of ideas is that to change course now….after 2000 years….would mean so much more than just redefining the modern day church. Wouldn’t we need to go back through the entire history of the church and correct all of their mistakes….and the mistakes those mistakes inevitably lead to….and the mistakes those lead to?

    My only hope as a church member and not a leader is that God raises up leaders who will address sexual sins as a whole and not just one slice of it. It is my belief that we are being given an opportunity to address all of it…..every last bit of it from pre-marital sins…lustful thoughts….pornography…adultery…all of it. And not just uncover these sins….but to execute the right and godly discipline within the church that, if it had been done decades ago, may have changed the entire course of the church and God’s glory might be so much more evident in the church then the world sees now.

    When I see just how dark and twisted this world is today….what we all see every day…..I can’t help but think that the church should be such a dramatically and shockingly contrasted difference that the whole world couldn’t help but see its magnificent radiance. But for the most part….the church just blends in.

    In my prayers for you and all leaders in the church….I do know that you are one who is to lead and shepherd. I believe you do know where the right pools of pure water are and the pastures that will nourish. You know God’s voice within you….I know you do. You have yet to give me anything other than the purest cool water each time I have thirsted. And I sincerely thank you and our God for you….for having done that.


  3. Well put!
    Who is looking out for whose well being?

    Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. On more than one occasion Jesus distinguishes himself from “bad shepherds”.John 10:11

    The minister, priest, or pastor are referred to as the Shepherds of God, The pastors , minister s or priest of the Christian Church stand as officers of God and are accountable as any officer is. Christ warns there are also false shepherds, liars and thieves that do harm to the flock and the sheep must be careful because these “hired hands” are not shepherds at all. They are hired hands who do not have or hold the authority of a true shepherd.

    Jesus said
    12 When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. John 10:12

    The above is depicting a coward The cowardly false shepherd is not and has never had any real concern for the flock. A hired hand is an assists to the employer This passage gives the impression these hired hands are not qualified to tend the flock.
    These hired hands who are not true shepherds covet something else and use their positions to realize personal goals that have nothing to do with the welfare of the flock or the goals of the employer.

    Ezekiel 34:10 warns:
    This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.

    The true shepherd will read the above and take seriously what is written. The Judases of the church will rationalize and marginalize the passage away because they don’t believe in the first place. They are like Judas Iscariot who walked with Christ and talked with Christ He appeared to be a true follower of God but when under examination he crumbled and fell apart.

    This is one of the best pieces I have read recently..

  4. There is, in The Rule of Law, the concept of “should have known or “could have known”.
    You “should have known’ or “could have known” is applied to every follower of Christ with officials of the Christian Church held to an even higher standard.
    Degrees of accountability are clearly taught in scripture and all are held accountable on some level.

    John Wesley’s notes on Luke 12:47
    “And his having much knowledge will increase, not lessen, his punishment.”

    What every Christian should read and understand.

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