Pastors are taking their cues for ministry from corporate and cultural paradigms rather than biblical ones, confusing the voice of the people with the voice of God.
As a result, pastors have gravitated toward managing instead of leading, echoing instead of visioning, conferencing instead of communing and herding instead of shepherding. Some reflective questions must be asked:
How is it that phone calls sometimes replace personal visits?
Why is it that voice mails or computers instead of people answer calls to the pastor?
When last did a pastor visit in a home rather than sending an e-mail?
How is it that so many preach on the conference circuit but fail to get around to the nursing-home circuit?
When last did the pastor lead someone to Christ in any other venue than a service?
How can it be that so many have fallen prey to the temptation to be hirelings rather than shepherds?
Why is it that too often we have pastoral leaders who exemplify repeat rather than covenant marriage?
Being transparent, I must confess that for too many of us in the States, ministry has become a profession, not a passion.
Granted, many pastors do still follow in the footsteps of the good Shepherd (see John 10). But their quiet service often gets lost amid the clanging cymbals of self-promoting pedestal-seekers.
One of the great classics of all time defining our role as pastors is Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor. Writing in 1766, Baxter pens a defining commentary of much of what we see in the 21st century:
"Too many who have undertaken the work of the ministry do so obstinately proceed in self-seeking, negligence, pride, and other sins, that it is become our necessary duty to admonish them ... And how can we more effectually further a reformation, than by endeavoring to reform the leaders of the Church?"
In light of Psalm 23, a return to a biblical role of shepherding must be at the roots of any reformation:
Leading, not pleasing. "He leads me ... " One can call for a vote, take a poll or simply follow the Shepherd's voice while inviting the sheep to follow behind. Pleasing God, not man, must be our first priority.
Meat, not milk only. "Green pastures ... still waters." We need more living water and less soda with gas. Pastors need to prepare meaty meals from the living bread of life rather than fast food.
Presence, not delegation. "Though I walk through the valley ... You are with me." Instead of simply sending a note or a messenger, the pastor's presence at the bedside or in the living room could well usher in God's Spirit in a way that others, notes, voice mails and cards cannot.
Substance, not fluff. " ... they comfort me." The pastoral message needs more substance than fluff or style. We often spend more time building rapport with our listeners than imparting the Word in substance and practical application.
Enemy warnings. " ... a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Our sheep are spending excessive amounts of time feeding at the Enemy's tables--cable news instead of good news, lustful Internet instead of passionate intercession, material-seeking instead of seeking His face and sound-bite preaching instead of in-depth discipleship.
Oil and wine. "You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over." So when will the power of the Holy Spirit and the abundant life really overflow in the lives of our sheep so the world takes notice that kingdom stock is worth more than Wall Street?
Abiding, not passing through. " ... dwell in the house of the Lord forever." So the pastor is leading sheep into a lifestyle of abiding in His presence not just passing through a multitude of services and meetings weekly.
Compelled by the knowledge that sheep are still lost and those found are still hungry, we must be empowered as pastors to divorce our cultural paradigms and embrace our Shepherd as the only true model for our life's vocation.
Larry Keefauver, D.Min., ministers internationally with his wife, Judi, in equipping leaders through Your Ministry Consultation Services (www.ymcs.org) for ministry, marriage, parenting and inviting God's presence.